UK Ambassador to the Holy See Sally Axworthy said this week that the UK government will consider a recommendation to impose sanctions on foreign governments that violate religious freedom.
“The Foreign Secretary … has said that we will look at imposing sanctions on people who commit violations of freedom of religion and belief, as we do impose sanctions on people who commit other kinds of crimes,” Axworthy told EWTN News Nightly July 15.
The ambassador’s comments came after the publication of an independent review to assess the response of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to the global problem of Christian persecution.
The report concluded that the UK government’s opportunities for independent action on the global stage have been under-utilized, and that the UK’s changing relationship with the European Union provides an opportunity for the Foreign Office to do more to preserve the rights of persecuted Christians, who make up 80 percent of those affected by global religious persecution.
Among the report’s recommendations to the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the Anglican Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen, who oversaw the report, recommended that the UK government be prepared to impose sanctions against perpetrators of “freedom of religion or belief” abuses.
“The Foreign Secretary has said that we are going to accept all of the recommendations in the report, and of course now we study how we do that,” Ambassador Axworthy said.
The results of the report were shared at an event at Rome’s Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island July 15.
“The plight of Christians suffering torture and death is particularly distressing for those of us who also share with them a deep spiritual bond,” Mons. Antoine Camilleri, the Vatican Under-Secretary for Relations with States, said at the report launch in Rome.
“Governments must ask themselves to what extent are they really committed to defending religious freedom and to combating persecution based on religion and belief,” Camillieri said.
“How many refrain from condoning such acts, or even condemn them, yet still ‘collaborate’ politically, economically, commercially, militarily or otherwise, or simply by turning a blind eye, with some of the most egregious violators of this fundamental freedom?”
The Vatican Under-Secretary for Relations with States underlined that the “growing tendency, even in established democracies, to criminalize or penalize religious leaders for presenting the basic tenets of their faith, especially regarding the areas of life, marriage and the family” is also a concern.
“The right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person, and it is not only an achievement of a sound political and juridical culture but also a condition for the pursuit of truth that does not impose itself by force,” Camilleri said.