Vladimir Putin is foolishly convinced Russia is “waging a holy war” through its brutal invasion of Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said.
Speaking at a conference on preserving religious freedom across the world in London on Tuesday, she said:” Vladimir Putin and his enablers think Russia is waging a holy war, but in truth nothing is sacred.
“We are seeing growing evidence of heinous war crimes committed by Russian troops.
“Innocent civilians are having to shelter from Russia’s indiscriminate bombardment in places of worship.
“Churches, synagogues, and mosques have been reduced to rubble.
“Religion is proving to be collateral damage from Putin’s aggression.”
Truss added:”Thoroughout history we have seen oppressors crackdown on freedom of religion or belief in order to exert control.
“Whether it’s the appalling persecution of the Jewish community over centuries or Stalin trying to stamp out religion in the Soviet Union.”
The cabinet minister added that since becoming Foreign Secretary she has taken a “strong stance” against antisemitism.”
She added:”The freedom to believe, to pray and commit acts of worship is a fundamental human freedom and has been one since the dawn of time.
“Societies that allow their people to believe are better and ultimately more successful.”
More than 700 faith, belief, government and civil society leaders from 60 countries attended the start of the two day long International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) at the QEII Centre in Westminister.
In a recorded message at the start of the conference, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales told attendees:” Freedom of conscience, of thought and of belief is central to any truly flourishing society.
“It allows people to contribute to their communities without fear of exclusion, to exchange ideas without fear of prejudice, and to build relationships without fear of rejection.
“A society where difference is respected, where it is accepted that all need not think alike, will benefit from the talents of all of its members.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also sent a recorded message saying the UK was “doing everything we can” to protect religious freedom.
He added he hoped the conference would allow those present to “see what more we can do together” and to “defend the right of everyone to enjoy religious freedoms in peace.”
Other speakers to contribute to the event included Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the Most Rev and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Islamic Scholar Sheikh Abdallah Bin-bayyah and Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Catholic church in Erbil, Iraq.
The UK will also announce £200,000 in new support for the protection and promotion of Freedom of Religious Belief.
This will fund awareness campaigns, community programmes and support conflict prevention, as well as providing direct assistance to those facing discrimination based on religion or belief
Another £300,000 is being pleaded to provide British legal expertise to countries where FoRB is under pressure.
This support will ensure governments and advocates have a better understanding of the legal steps they can take to implement lasting and legislative change in their country.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “The international community shares a collective responsibility to ensure freedom of religion or belief for everyone, everywhere.
“Too many people around the world are denied access to this fundamental human right, persecuted, or indeed tragically killed simply because of their faith I look forward to welcoming partners from around the world to London to help drive collective action in defending everyone’s right to freedom of religion or belief.”
UK Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion of Belief Fiona Bruce, (FoRB) added:” We need greater collective action to ensure the right to freedom of religion or belief is protected for everyone, everywhere.”
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