RIGHT TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

The SNP absolutely supports freedom of religion and worship everywhere in the world. This is a fundamental human right, long recognised as such by the international community, and there must be no let-up in international efforts to safeguard freedom of religion and to prevent persecution of religious minorities everywhere.

The charity Open Doors, which supports persecuted Christians around the world, has placed Iran 9th on its list of countries around the world where Christians face the most persecution. The UK government can and must do more to help Christians in Iran and the SNP will continue to urge them to explore every possible path which may do so.

I raised the plight of Iranian Christians in the Commons Chamber at the beginning of the year, noting the hypocrisy of the UK Government in offering a “commitment to protect those persecuted Christians abroad [while] telling them that there is no room at the inn in the UK.”

In March this year, an Iranian convert to Christianity received a letter from the Home Office which quoted violent examples from Matthew 10:34, Revelation 2:22 and Leviticus 26:7 in order to argue that the claimant had made an error in assuming Christianity was “about peace, forgiveness and kindness”. The letter told the Iranian asylum seeker that ‘‘these examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it is a “peaceful” religion’ and his asylum claim was subsequently denied.

If this Conservative government were truly concerned about religious persecution and welcoming persecuted people into this country, it could show at home this by pushing for reform of the Home Office’s unjust and immoral asylum policies. For example, those asylum seekers whose claims are accepted are effectively banned from finding work – something which is key to helping them integrate into society.

My SNP colleagues, Carol Monaghan and Martyn Day, have previously raised the issue of Christian persecution in the Chamber during a recent debate and they both spoke for the whole SNP in urging the UK Government to do everything in its power to protect Christians from persecution abroad. This is a message we will continue to repeat in Westminster and on the international stage.

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