The UK has joined 26 other countries in a bid to reduce religious persecution worldwide, as part of a new International Religious Freedom Alliance.
At the group’s launch, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “Together, we say that freedom of religion or belief is not a Western ideal, but truly the bedrock of societies”.
The Alliance is the first of its kind to assemble countries to “advocate for the persecuted, the defenseless, and the vulnerable” in regards to religious persecution.
The group’s Declaration of Principles supports the rights of individuals “to hold any belief or none, to change religion or belief and to manifest religion or belief”.
Pompeo said, “we must affirm, and fight for, that truth now more than ever. More than eight in ten people in the world today live where they cannot practise their faith freely”.
Poland will hold the Alliance’s next ministerial meeting in July, where each state will discuss plans to counter “challenges threatening the freedom of religion or belief”.
MPs recently urged the UK Government to combat Christian persecution across the globe.
Conservative MP Fiona Bruce drew attention to Nigeria, where the “religious element of these atrocities is so important, yet it has been downplayed and ignored” for too long.
She welcomed the UK’s joining of the Alliance, asking how they will use it raise the plight of Nigerian Christians.
Labour MP Lyn Brown said the protection of freedom of religion “needs to be at the heart of UK foreign policy”.
Brown highlighted China, where “there have been crackdowns, detentions, interrogations, torture and disappearances”.
She said, “if we in Britain will not stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, who are we?”
Open Doors’ annual report revealed that around 260 million Christians are experiencing high levels of persecution.
In recent months, the UK Government pledged more support to Christians suffering persecution abroad.