News story

FCO leads global action on freedom of religion

The Foreign Office is hosting a 2-day summit to bring together experts to explore how freedom of religion or belief can help prevent violent extremism.

On 19 to 20 October the FCO is hosting a groundbreaking event which will explore how building inclusive societies, in which people have freedom to practice their own religion and belief, can help prevent extremism.

The conference will bring together more than 50 expert speakers and over 170 participants from 38 countries who will share ideas to extend and defend the right to freedom of religion or belief, discuss ways to build resilience against extremism and identify opportunities to work together.

Extremism is the biggest security challenge of our age and is a significant barrier to global prosperity, development, peace and stability.

The conference will explore the degree to which freedom of religion or belief can serve as part of the answer to this challenge because freedom and respect for human rights help to create the conditions under which societies can grow more stable and prosperous.

No country can tackle this alone so the conference is an important step in bringing together experts on freedom of religion and extremism to focus on practical solutions.

FCO Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Anelay said:

Freedom of religion or belief is one of our most powerful tools in the fight against extremism.

We need to value others, no matter what religion they follow. And if we teach our children to do the same we are equipping them to reject the hatred peddled by extremists.

All parts of society must join us in this effort and I’m delighted that so many are attending the conference, showing the level of commitment and ambition for this cause.

If we lay the foundations for open, equal and plural societies, then we are building communities that are more likely to reject extremism.

The government is taking a number of practical steps to support the expression of freedom of religion or belief overseas:

  • we launched and signed up to a statement of principles for UN Global Leadership on Preventing Violent Extremism, and urged other UN Member States to join us

  • we have increased our funding to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund to support initiatives to prevent violent extremism

  • we support projects throughout the world through the Magna Carta Fund: for example in Iraq we supported a series of grassroots meetings between religious leaders to promote religious tolerance and freedom of religion or belief

  • on 19 September at the United Nations General Assembly, the Foreign Secretary, alongside the Foreign Ministers from Belgium and Iraq, launched a campaign to ensure that once they are defeated, Daesh are held to account for their awful crimes

Further information

Media enquiries

For journalists

Published 19 October 2016