The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have welcomed the appointment of Rehman Chishti as the Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion and belief.
The Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham succeeds Lord Tariq Ahmad.
A statement released by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said: ‘The bishops offer prayers and support to Mr Chishti as he takes on this important role.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson proclaimed the UK a champion of religious and other freedoms, and committed the UK to working with partners and friends around the world to ensure that everyone, everywhere is able to enjoy these freedoms.
“People across the world deserve the chance to practise their beliefs freely,” Mr Johnson said.
“I’m delighted to appoint Rehman as my new special envoy and look forward to him building on the important work we have already done on this issue.
“The UK will always be a passionate advocate for greater tolerance, respect and understanding internationally,”
Mr Chishti said he is “delighted” at his new appointment.
“I have championed freedom of religion and beliefs for much of my life,” Mr Chisti, who helped to lead the campaign to give Catholic mother Asia Bibi asylum in the UK, said.
“I shall use the UK Government’s global network to take action to support those persecuted for their faith or belief, and promote greater understanding and respect between faiths.
“As someone whose family came to the UK when I was six, and my father had taken up a role as an Imam, my family and I have always been able to openly and freely practise our faith.
“I want to ensure every citizen around the world is able to enjoy this basic right. Freedom of Religion, practice and belief is one of the foundations of a free society.
“I pay tribute to Lord Ahmad for all his work on this area over recent years,” Mr Chisti added.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, said: “A staggering 83 per cent of the world’s population live in nations where religious freedom is threatened or banned. It is an area where the UK can and must make a difference. I’m delighted to be working with Rehman to enhance the UK’s support for those suffering persecution based on their faith.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said Mr Chishti will ‘bring together efforts across the UK Government, with faith actors and civil society to promote the UK’s firm stance on religious tolerance abroad.
‘The Special Envoy will continue to lead the implementation of the recommendations from the recent independent review into FCO support for persecuted Christians led by the Bishop of Truro.
‘He will also advocate for the rights of all individuals here in the UK and around the world who are being discriminated against and persecuted for their faith or belief.’
Lord Ahmad, who previously held the envoy role, ‘will continue to champion human rights in his Ministerial capacity’.
‘This appointment will therefore increase the number of people working on the issue of religious freedom across government,’ the FCO added.
Picture: Rehman Chishti. (CBCEW).