Fiona Bruce appointed as new Freedom of Religion or Belief Envoy
Bruce, a committed Christian, said the plight of young Christian girls like Leah Sharibu, kidnapped by militants in Nigeria, and Maira Shahbaz, forced into a marriage in Pakistan, would be priorities for her.
Welcoming the news on Twitter, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Fiona Bruce is a champion for freedoms here and abroad.
“I look forward to working with her as the UK’s Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief to make sure everyone, everywhere is free to have and practise a faith, belief, or not, in accordance with their conscience.”
She succeeds Rehman Chisti who resigned earlier this year after the Government suggested it would break international law over Brexit.
Bruce said she was “honoured” by the appointment.
“There is much to do, and my post will be placed at the service of some of the most vulnerable people across the world, people like young girls Leah Sharibu from Nigeria and Maira Shahbaz from Pakistan, both brutally abducted from their homes and whose plights I was able to highlight recently in the House of Commons,” she said.
“This appointment comes in the light of continuing large scale horrors taking place – such as those against Uighur Muslims in China, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and Yazidis in Iraq and at a time when, as the late and much respected former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks stated, ‘the persecution of Christians throughout much of the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and elsewhere, is one of the crimes against humanity of our time.’
“These are some of the most deeply concerning issues of our generation, on which it will be a privilege to engage as Special Envoy, both nationally and internationally, with others similarly concerned.”
Her appointment has been welcomed by CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas, who said: “This appointment is wonderful news for all who work on freedom of religion or belief.
“Fiona Bruce has been unwavering, courageous and outspoken in championing this fundamental right since she became an MP in 2010, and we look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role.
“We would also like to thank Rehman Chisti MP for his work advancing the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief worldwide both during and after his time as FoRB envoy.”
Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Open Doors, said the Conversative MP has been a “champion” for minority religious groups.
“We are thrilled that a new special envoy has been appointed,” said Henrietta. “And we are delighted that it is Fiona Bruce – she has been a friend of Open Doors through the years and is a real champion for freedom of religion and belief,” she said.
“Freedom of religion and belief affects all religious groups and it’s great to see that the Government is open to appointing members of all religions to the role.
“Rehman Chishti MP was very energetic in pursuing the recommendations from the Bishop of Truro’s report to support persecuted Christians and we will look forward to continuing our work on this with Fiona.”
Dr David Landrum, the new director of Advocacy and Public Affairs at Open Doors UK & Ireland, said:
“This is a timely and important appointment. Fiona understands that the freedom to convert is at the heart of religious freedom and that religious freedom underpins all our other human rights and civil liberties.
“We look forward to working with Fiona as the UK government affirms its commitment to addressing the persecution of Christians across the world.
“We know that from her extensive campaigning work and her role on the Joint Human Rights Committee Fiona is not only very knowledgeable about the issues facing the persecuted church, but she also has both a heart for religious freedom and a vision to see things change.”