Government replies on the impact of Covid-19 on religious minorities and says that it is “deeply concerned by the secondary effects that the Covid-19 pandemic is having on members of religious and belief communities. This includes incidents of hate speech targeting minority religious and belief groups, as well as the rise in conspiracy theories that certain faiths or beliefs are to blame for coronavirus.”


Government replies on the impact of Covid-19 on religious minorities and says that it is “deeply concerned by the secondary effects that the Covid-19 pandemic is having on members of religious and belief communities. This includes incidents of hate speech targeting minority religious and belief groups, as well as the rise in conspiracy theories that certain faiths or beliefs are to blame for coronavirus.”

Our reference: MC2020/10419
The Lord Alton of Liverpool
House of Lords
London
SW1A 0PW
23 July 2020

Dear David,

Thank you for your letter of 3 June 2020 about the impact of Covid-19 on religious
minorities.

As you know, the UK is committed to defending Freedom of Religion or Belief and
promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities.
Promoting the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief is one of the UK’s human rights
policy priorities. The Prime Minister appointed Rehman Chishti MP to succeed me as his Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief in September 2019.
Both Rehman and I, along with colleagues from across HMG, are deeply concerned
by the secondary effects that the Covid-19 pandemic is having on members of
religious and belief communities.

This includes incidents of hate speech targeting minority religious and belief groups, as well as the rise in conspiracy theories that certain faiths or beliefs are to blame for coronavirus.

Such incidents are unacceptable, and the UK will continue to refute these divisive and harmful claims.

We have been particularly concerned by reports of the denial of food aid to Christian and Hindu minorities by relief organisations in Pakistan, as well as discrimination against minorities in India, including online hate speech against Muslims.

We have also raised concerns about compulsory cremations for victims of Covid-19, and in response we have shared evidence of how the religious wishes of families can be respected during the pandemic in accordance with religious practices. We will continue to do so.

The UK has been clear that any restrictions to the right to Freedom of Religion or
Belief must be lawful, targeted, time-limited, and subject to regular review to ensure they remain necessary as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Through the UK’s membership of the International Religious Freedom Alliance, Rehman has worked with international counterparts on the response to Covid-19, and has joined coordinated calls for prisoners of conscience to be released.

DFID’s UK Aid Connect “CREID” programme (£12million over four years), led by the
Institute of Development Studies, is working with religious minority communities to identify how to gather accurate and useful information and data on their real, lived experience of discrimination in a way that does not cause harm. They have been specifically investigating the impact of Covid-19 on minority religious communities.
Finally, on your proposal to establish a special budget to assist religious minorities
uniquely affected by Covid-19, I have asked my officials to consider this suggestion
carefully.

Programme funding allocations for financial year 2020-2021 are yet to be
confirmed, but I have requested that this option be explored in due course.

I am proud that the UK is a global leader in supporting international efforts to
combat the outbreak of Covid-19. We will continue to work with our partners to
support this global effort, and ensure assistance is directed to help those most
vulnerable.

I would be grateful if you could share this response with all signatories of your letter.
 Yours sincerely,

LORD (TARIQ) AHMAD OF WIMBLEDON
 

Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth
Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict