The Government needs to rethink its international aid programmes to ensure that countries support religious freedom, two Parliamentarians have said.
In a piece for the Conservative Home website, Conservative MP Fiona Bruce and cross-bench Peer Lord Alton said it is reasonable to expect certain behaviour from countries receiving aid.
They said UK aid is currently given to some countries that are contravening Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says everyone has the right to freedom of religion.
“Where freedom of thought, belief, or speech are restricted, other human rights violations can follow in their wake – discrimination, persecution, crimes against humanity and even genocide”, the pair warned.
The piece highlighted countries where Christians suffer immense persecution but are still given millions of pounds in UK aid each year.
Churchgoers have been murdered in their pews in Pakistan, but in response to these incidents the country has shown “indifference at best” despite receiving “vast sums of money”.
Where freedom of thought, belief, or speech are restricted, other human rights violations can follow in their wakeLord Alton andFiona Bruce MP
And in Eritrea, Christians are fleeing for their lives – Lord Alton and Mrs Bruce said the Government should ensure that international aid tackles the root causes of the exodus of refugees.
Lord Alton and Mrs Bruce called for aid organisations to ensure “adequate religious literacy amongst those working for them”, and said money should be channelled to organisations that show sufficient respect for Article 18.
“We all need to have a greater understanding of the golden thread which links religious freedom to safe prosperous and stable societies, and that doing so would be one way to help prevent forced mass migration and movements of people”, they said.
In 2011, David Cameron said that countries receiving international aid should respect gay rights.