Government urged to link overseas aid to religious freedom
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has called on the Coalition to attach conditionality to its aid to Muslim countries. Britain is making large increases in aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan, for example, and the Cardinal thinks that aid should be used to ensure Christians have religious freedom (quotes from Scotsman):
"I urge William Hague to obtain guarantees from foreign governments before they are given aid. To increase aid to the Pakistan government when religious freedom is not upheld and those who speak up for religious freedom are gunned down is tantamount to an anti-Christian foreign policy. Pressure should now be put on the government of Pakistan - and the governments of the Arab world as well - to ensure that religious freedom is upheld, the provision of aid must require a commitment to human rights."
"This reality is both shocking and saddening. In countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, Christians face violence, intolerance and even death because of their beliefs. This is intolerable and unacceptable. Here in Scotland we value our freedoms, particularly the freedom of religion and the right to practice our faith free of persecution. Yet this detailed and at times harrowing report reminds us that not all of our fellow Christians enjoy such freedom to worship."
Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt, himself an evangelical Christian told The Herald:
“Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and we condemn and deplore religious persecution in any form. The promotion of human rights, including freedom of religion, is at the heart of our foreign policy...
Britain raises concerns about religious freedom wherever they arise, including in Pakistan, through the intervention of ministers or our embassies and high commissions. We lobby governments about cases where persecution or discrimination occurs, and call for changes in discriminatory practices and laws in countries where freedom of religion is curtailed....
British aid helps the world’s poorest people, who would lose out twice over were we to withdraw it. The Development Secretary has made clear the pivotal role of the Christian churches in tackling world poverty and last month launched a renewed drive to work more closely with faith communities. It is vital that Pakistan guarantees the rights of all its citizens, regardless of their faith or ethnicity. We will continue to press for religious freedoms to be upheld in Pakistan and around the world.”
> Ben Rogers on Comment: "The assassination of Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, robs the country of another of its leading voices for religious freedom, equal rights, justice and peace."