The World of Yesterday – Memoirs of a European – Stefan Zweig:  and its relevance to Project Hate 2019.

The World of Yesterday – Memoirs of a European – Stefan Zweig:  and its relevance to Project Hate 2019.


A friend recently gave me a copy of Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday – Memoirs of a European, first published in 1942. The manuscript was completed by this acclaimed Jewish writer and posted to his publisher the day before he and his wife took their own lives.


The tragic end of Zweig’s life was a mirror image of the end of the civilised world in which he and so many of his compatriots had grown up and flourished in early twentieth century Vienna.


I was introduced to Zweig’s autobiography after I had told my friend about my interest in Franz Werfel, a Jewish Austrian novelist and playwriter who was a contemporary and acquaintance of Zweig. In 1933 Werfel had written The Forty Days of Musa Dagh – a brilliant novel based on the Armenian genocide of 1915.  Like Zweig his books were burnt and banned by Hitler’s National Socialists.     


What happened to Zweig and Werfel – to their work and to millions of other Jews and minorities – is especially relevant today in the context of Project Hate 2019 – which we see manifesting itself globally.


Zweig’s masterful autobiography charts the rise of visceral hatred; how scapegoating and xenophobia, cultivated by populist leaders, can rapidly morph into the hecatombs of the concentration camps. As the history of the twentieth century graphically demonstrates, the hatred of difference invariably begins with anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews, but it never ends there.


If you doubt how quickly a relatively civilised and humane society, and a seemingly permanent golden age, can be ruthlessly and swiftly destroyed, then read Zweig. 


And consider that beyond the ugly spectre of Anti-Semitism appearing in main stream British politics, in 2019, for the first time since 1945, there are Nazis in the Reichstag; Austria has a coalition government which includes a party whose first leader was as an officer in the SS; Italy has a governing party which is home to fascist throwbacks; while some “yellow vests” in France mighty more appropriately wear black shirts after recently being  involved in anti-Semitic abuse of the French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut; while the far right is capturing  seats from Sweden to Spain. And watch with anxiety the coming elections to the European Parliament. 


Project Hate can also be seen in the Anti-Semitic memes which accompany digital Nazism – even the live streaming of mass murders courtesy of multi-media outlets. Other shades of viral hatred – from anti-Semitism to homophobia and overt racism – readily and effortlessly morph from virtual reality into violence. 


In his autobiography Zweig wrote that:


“Man was separated by man on the grounds of absurd theories of blood, race and origins” – and so it is again today.  For three years running vicious attacks against Jews in the U.K. have reached new highs.


Zweig said:



“The greatest curse brought down on us by technology is that it prevents us from escaping the present even for a brief time. Previous generations could retreat into solitude and seclusion when disaster struck; it was our fate to be aware of everything catastrophic happening anywhere in the world at the hour and the second when it happened.”


And that was 1945. Now it is live streamed and in every living room and on every mobile device within seconds – including pre- arranged broadcast of mass shootings: St. Bartholomew’s Eve Massacres courtesy of Facebook and Google.



The use of social media to spread violent ideologies had a tragic outcome on March 15th with the horrific deaths of nearly 50 Muslims gathered for Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand.  But we also saw the same hatred of difference at work in the Synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 Jewish worshippers were gunned down; and in Lahore where 75 Christians were murdered as they gathered to celebrate Easter; and deaths, day after day in Northern Nigeria, following the genocide of Christians and Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq and Syria.



And what can we learn from Zweig about our response to such phenomena and events?


In a presentiment of what lay ahead he wrote that “Europe in its state of derangement had passed its own death sentence”  and yet the elites kept turning a blind eye, hoping that the problem would simply go away – leading him to remark: “We are none of us very proud of our political blindness at that time and we are horrified to see where it has brought us.”


Zweig saw how, in the face of indifference and the desire for a quiet life, the thin veneer that separates civilised values from mob rule very quickly cracked. He describes how university professors were forced to scrub streets with their bare hands; devout Jews humiliated in their synagogues; apartments broken into and jewels torn out of the ears of trembling women.


He says, “one man had succeeded in deadening every idea of what is just and right by the constant attrition of excess “Hitler’s most diabolical triumph.”  In 1938 the conscience of the world kept quiet “or murmured just a little before forgetting and forgiving.”


On meeting groups of fleeing refugees, Zweig says” They (the Jews) were told don’t live here with us but no one told them where they were to live.”


He concludes his remarkable account of those tortured years be saying


“I knew like the patriarch Lot, in the Bible, that all behind me was dust and ashes, the past transformed into a pillar of bitter salt.”


The haunting question remains: can we do better in our own generation?




Gladys Aylward, the little woman, and China’s Inn of The Sixth Happiness – or more accurately, the Inn of the Eight Happinesses

Gladys Aylward, the little woman, and China’s Inn of The Sixth Happiness – or, more accurately, the Inn of the Eight Happinesses

Gladys Aylward - the little woman Gladys Aylward – the little woman

Alan Burgess The Small Woman - Gladys Aylwardscan0006

The Inn of The Sixth Happiness - which gives a distorted account of Gladys Aylward's life The Inn of The Sixth Happiness – which gives a distorted account of Gladys Aylward’s life

The Inn of The Sixth Happiness - Gladys Aylward was no Ingrid Bergman The Inn of The Sixth Happiness – Gladys Aylward was no Ingrid Bergman

Gladys Aylward with her orphans Gladys Aylward with some of her converts  and Muleteers praying over Jeannie Lawson’s coffin.

Gladys Aylward with her orphans - fleeing from the Japanese army Gladys Aylward with her orphans – fleeing from the Japanese army

Gladys Aylward with her orphans - fleeing from the Japanese army Gladys Aylward with her orphans – fleeing from the Japanese army

Gladys Aylward Gladys Aylward

Gladys-Aylward 5

There is a lovely movie, staring Ingrid Bergman, called “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” Made in 1958 it celebrates the remarkable life of a petite woman, born in 1902 in Edwardian England, called Gladys Aylward. It’s a charming film but on recently reading a biography of Miss Aylward I realised that the Hollywood make-over…

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Please support disabled children like Amy by giving them a voice – while I remain siLENT for 24 hours for Million Minutes

Please support disabled children like Amy by giving them a voice – while I remain siLENT for 24 hours for Million Minutes.  


Tomorrow, Friday.  I am staying siLENT with Million Minutes this Lent to raise money for young people who don’t have a voice. I will not speak, use my phone or social media for 24 hours! Please sponsor me. 


Your sponsorship will help young people like Amy. Amy always wanted to show people who she was, but she wasn’t able to. Instead growing up as a young person with a disability, she was often judged and bullied. Now that is changing. Million Minutes is working with For Jimmy to give Amy her voice. Our help enables her to use her experience of being rejected and bullied to support other young people living with disabilities, and to reduce the stigma of the label ‘disabled’. Your sponsorship will support people like Amy to change their lives and their world. 


Further details, click here


Image result for quotes about silence

Aegis Trust ceremony at the House of Lords as Ambassador Kenneth Quinn is given an Aegis Award for Combating Genocide in Cambodia; Report of Parliamentary Meeting about Hong Kong British Nationals Overseas Passport Holders And Home Office Signals Progress In A Letter From Ministers

Aegis Trust ceremony at the House of Lords as Ambassador Kenneth Quinn is given an Aegis Award For Combating Genocide in Cambodia

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn Genocide Award

also see:

Remarks by David Alton who hosted the event:

Aegis Trust

I would like to warmly welcome you all to this event recognising Ambassador Quinn for his work on the issue of genocide.

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn

Welcome to the Hume Room.  It is named for Alec Douglas Home – Lord Home of the Hirsel – who, in 1963, following the resignation of Harold Macmillan, as Prime Minister, emerged as a compromise candidate and replaced him as Prime Minister but narrowly failed to win the subsequent 1964 General Election.

A former Foreign Secretary he often appeared to be a grey figure but those who knew him say he was often modestly self-deprecating, kind and capable of wit.

In 1940, he had been diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis and was immobilised for two years. Afterwards, he said that it was the first time in medical history that they had succeeded in inserting a backbone into a politician: not something that can be said of the formidable politicians and diplomats gathered here today.



It’s a pleasure to be hosting an event here for the Aegis Trust, founded in the Millennium Year – and which, in 2004, following my visit to Darfur, did so much to encourage me.   


Genocide has been referred to as the crime of crimes, and rightly so.  What could be worse than a crime that seeks the annihilation of protected groups in whole or in part, whether on grounds of ethnicity, religion, orientation, disability or some other characteristic that signifies difference.


Yet, despite its position as the crime of crimes, many turn a blind eye to such atrocities. 


Perhaps this is in part because atrocities like genocide often happen far from home – in the killing fields of Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, Syria, Iraq or Burma.


Out of sight can all too easily morph into out of mind – especially if the genocide dies not affect us personally.


And it is not always easy to engage parliaments, governments and international institutions and get them to act. Many of you know that by now.


Indeed, even here in the Lords, Parliamentarians have been trying to ensure that the UK Government takes a stronger approach to genocidal atrocities whenever and wherever they occur. 


Sadly, thus far, the UK Government continues to resist even making a preliminary determination of genocide to inform its response – and to fulfil its duty under the 1948 Genocide Convention, to protect, to prevent and to punish.


Therefore, it is important to recognise those people who do take a stand against crimes like genocide and ensure that silence is not an option.


We will hear a great deal more about Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn and his wife Lay Son whom I warmly welcome here today.


I would also like to welcome many distinguished guests, including…


Friends from the United States, among whom are the representative of the US Ambassador, Steven Noah, Chair of the Steven Krulis Champion of Humanity Award organising committee.


Sir Trevor Pears who is founding patron of Aegis and honorary chair of the Aegis Champions of Humanity leaders circle; 


Dr James Smith and Aegis Trust that have been supporting the APPG on genocide in Parliament for many years.


I would also like to welcome Sokphal, a survivor of the Cambodian genocide.
and many other distinguished guests, that I cannot name within these brief remarks. However, it is a great honour to have you joined us here today.


After standing down from the Commons, and on becoming a member of this place, I chose as my motto for the coat of arms which is given to new members, two words from the Hebrew bible:  the words, ‘choose Life’.  In many respects that is exactly what the award presented today to Ambassador Quinn represents. Those who have chosen pathways of life, through confronting and countering genocide, provide a role model and inspiration to others. We need more people like Ambassador Quinn  to be able to deliver on the oft repeated promise that genocides should happen “never again.”


Choosing Life also means focusing on ref flag genocide prevention and preventing mass atrocities from occurring – a challenge which the international community has not mastered yet. That is why a group of us have proposed that the house of lords establishes an ad hoc committee to examine the Government’s response to genocide and tomorrow we will learn whether the proposal will be agreed.


Now, it is my pleasure to introduce Tom Tugendhat MP, a former officer in our armed forces and Chair of the house of Commons foreign affairs select committee who will introduce the recipient of the 2019 award: Ambassador Kenneth Quinn.


  Aegis Trust


Also see:




Home Office Signals Progress for Hong Kong’s Holders of British Nationals Overseas Passports.

Click here for Home Office Minister’s Reply:



On Monday March 4th David Alton chaired a  meeting at the House of Lords on behalf of the charity, Hong Kong Watch.  A capacity audience heard accounts from five activists from Hong Kong.  The main focus of the meeting was about the 152,350 Hong Kongers who hold a BNO passport.


David Alton said;


 “It is positive that the United Kingdom is looking to become world leaders in automated passenger clearance, but it is puzzling that privileged access is being given to foreign nationals from the United States, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, while people holding British passports continue to wait in line.

It is particularly confusing that the Hong Kong SAR passport has access to the e-passport gates, but BNO passports do not.


What does it communicate to the rest of the world that British passports holders are being forced to queue not only behind every European, but also foreign nationals?


It is easy to forget that there are hundreds of BNO passport holders who fought for the British army when they were British citizens prior to handover. Does their service not matter to us? Should they really be waiting behind the Japanese or South Koreans?


I campaigned for British Dependent Territory Citizens in Hong Kong to be given right of abode, or at least the choice to retain their citizenship, when the handover discussions were taking place. Unfortunately, our negotiations with China denied them their right to self-determination, offering only the BNO passport as a token compromise. These passports were designed to acknowledge the historic ties the United Kingdom has with Hong Kong, and our ongoing commitment to the people of Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. This is a cost-free way of ensuring that these British passports mean something.”



Following the meeting, Baroness Williams of Trafford, a Home Office Minister has promised, in a letter to Lord Alton (attached), that the Home Office will examine the restrictions on BNO passport holders being able to use automated passenger clearance.


Reports of the meeting from the East Asian media:



Apple Daily


Local Press




852 post


Yahoo news


Secret China




Primodos: A Welcome Review Into A Drug That Did Enormous Harm – including follow up letter from the Minister for Health.

Primodos: A Welcome Review Into A Drug That Did Enormous Harm

primados 1


House of Lords February 28th 2019

Letter from Baroness Blackwood to Lord Alton

HPT studies_quality assessment

2.31 pm


Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)


My Lords, I join others in congratulating my noble friend Lord Carrington on his very well-judged maiden speech today.


In this welcome debate, my remarks will centre on Primodos—an issue I raised with the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, while he was a Minister. 


Like the noble Lord, I pay tribute to Marie Lyon, who chairs the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests. Assiduously and tenaciously, she has fought for justice for those whom big pharmaceuticals have often treated with irresponsible contempt. She and her husband have travelled down from Wigan today and are watching our debate.


Marie Lyon wishes me to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, and the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review for taking the campaigners seriously. She tells me:


“The sensitivity shown to our members by the”,




“team is appreciated and commended. I really do feel that”,


they and,


“Baroness Cumberlege … are committed to discovering the truth about the failures of the Drug Company and the Government Regulators and have a genuine desire to ensure justice is served”.


I add my own thanks to the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, for his role in encouraging the establishment of the independent review, and I wholly endorse what he said earlier about the desirability of creating a national office for patient safety.


My interest in Primodos began in 2010, when a gentleman born with severe birth defects asked to see me at my university office in Liverpool. 


He believed that his disabilities were attributable to Primodos, a hormone-based pregnancy test first marketed in the UK in 1959 and produced by Schering AG, which was subsequently taken over by Bayer AG. 


Withdrawn from sale in the United Kingdom in 1978, tellingly it was also used in South Korea to abort the child in the womb.


Dr Isabel Gal’s 1960 research at Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children demonstrated a link between the drug and severe birth defects, and a review by the Committee on Safety of Medicines concluded that pregnant women should not use it. However, subsequent court cases failed to provide a conclusive outcome, as did a 2014 review by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.


On 26 October 2010, I asked the Government several Questions. 


One was about the dosage of the constituents of Primodos; one asked for any documents that the Government held about its dangers to be placed in the Library; one was about the nature of the disabilities; one was about the help given to those affected; and one requested Ministers to meet the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests.


In his reply at the time, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said that the regulatory agency had no information on the number of children who are born with disabilities, nor did it have evidence. 


If there was no evidence, why did they ban the drug? As for meeting the victims:


“The MHRA therefore has no current plans to meet members of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests, people suspected to have been adversely affected by the drug Primodos, or with the pharmaceutical company, Bayer”.—[Official Report, 26/10/10; col. WA 265.]


Despite further letters and Questions, a 2017 report of an expert working group of the UK Commission on Human Medicines continued to state that there was no causal association. Yet in that same year, Sky News broadcast “The Secret Drug Scandal”, which found that evidence of an association had been destroyed by a UK regulator in the 1970s. I asked the Government for their response and,


“whether they will consider establishing a public inquiry into the alleged failure of the regulator at that time to protect public safety”.


In another Question, I asked whether they would examine why,


“no toxicology or testing was undertaken prior to the drug Primodos being licensed”,


and whether they were aware that,


“Primodos was being used as an abortifacient in some parts of the world whilst being sold in the UK for the purposes of pregnancy testing, and … that there may have been collusion between the drug manufacturer and the regulatory bodies”.


In another, I asked why Primodos had stayed on the market and no tests had been,


“ordered by the Committee for the Safety of Medicines under the Medicines Act 1971”.


In another, I asked them to,


“meet with Marie Lyon and representatives of the Primodos victims support group”,


and in another, asked why they were not funding research in Aberdeen and Cambridge examining the,


“likely effects on the child in the womb”.


Then, in February 2018, the right honourable Jeremy Hunt announced his welcome review to be led by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege. 


I hope that when the Minister replies, she will tell us when it is likely to report and—perhaps more importantly—who will be responsible for taking forward its recommendations. 


Among other things, as we heard from the noble Baroness, the review will investigate any association between hormone pregnancy tests and their teratogenic effects, and whether the regulatory bodies could, and should, have acted on concerns sooner—and if they did not, why.


Meanwhile, a team at Oxford, led by Professor Carl Heneghan, the scientist responsible for identifying Thalidomide association, has discovered that pooled data show “a clear association” with several forms of malformation. 


Professor Neil Vargesson has carried out other work on zebrafish, which revealed anomalies that mirrored the adverse effects on victims of Primodos. Their studies were peer-reviewed and remain in the top percentile of scientific studies.


In the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said:


“Ministers are aware of the new study that has come out … and … that study will be looked at very carefully”.—[Official Report, Commons, 16/1/19; col. 1160.]


I welcome that. 


However, the raw data that Professor Heneghan needs to complete his review has not been made available. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hormone Pregnancy Tests, chaired by Yasmin Qureshi MP, and of which I am vice-chairman, has sent a freedom of information request for the data, but to date has not received a response.


Mrs Lyon has twice emailed the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, but has not received a response. I gave the Minister notice of my intention to raise this question today. 


This is tardy and unco-operative on the part of that body. I hope the Minister will be able tell us whether more can be done to take that forward.


Severely disabled children, cared for by family members now in their late 70s, are increasingly becoming the responsibility of their siblings. 


While their health deteriorates, many battle every day to support themselves. Some have died fighting to the very end to reveal the truth about the failures of the drugs company and the regulatory agencies. 


They have faced the implacable determination of regulatory bodies spending huge amounts of public money on ad hoc scientific reviews to cast doubt on the work of highly reputable scientists. Those who have suffered so grievously deserve much better than this.

Also see:

Primodos – The Secret Drugs Scandal. Congratulations to Jason Farrell and Sky TV – Why there should be a full Public Inquiry:

House of Commons to debate forced organ harvesting.Questions on the Muslim Uighurs February 25th. Ministers Questioned in the House of Lords about tortured lawyers; demolished Christian churches; abducted Pastor; organ harvesting and incarceration of Uighurs. The continued deterioration of human rights in China will fuel resentment and radicalisation across the globe and threaten China’s desire to create a harmonious society. Speech by Fiona Bruce MP about the Uighurs.


Jim Shannon,  MP for Strangford and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) has tabled the following Motion for debate in the House of Commons on March 26th:  forced live organ extraction in China

Here is a link to the debate on official Parliament schedule:

He is also one of the signatories to an Early Day Motion on the same subject:

You can find the details about the EDM here:

February 25th 2019.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL13634):

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that Uighur Muslims detained in China have undergone unwanted blood, tissue and DNA tests; what they believe to be the purpose of any such tests; and whether there is evidence of state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting religious prisoners of conscience, including Uighur Muslims. (HL13634)

Tabled on: 12 February 2019

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and reports of the Chinese Government’s deepening crackdown; including credible reports of re-education camps and widespread surveillance and restrictions targeted at ethnic minorities. We are aware of media reports that some Uyghurs may have been subject to unwanted DNA tests.

More broadly, we…

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2019 marks the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh – the Amritsar Massacre which Churchill condemned as “an extraordinary event, a monstrous event… which stands in singular and sinister isolation.” We must learn the lessons of history.

2019 marks the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh – the Amritsar Massacre which Churchill condemned as “the inflicting of great slaughter or massacre …with the intention of terrorizing not merely the rest of the crowd but the whole district or country.”

We must learn the lessons of history.

Megnat (Lord) Desai, in his erudite account of what happened, details the the consequences of the Amritsar Massacre  in his book “The Rediscovery of India.”

He reminds us that at the culmination of World War One, brave soldiers from the Sub-Continent returned from the European trenches, radicalized and ready to insist on change.

Onto that stage walked two entirely different men.  

Here was Mahatma Gandhi with his commitment to peaceful change, and General Reginald Dyer whom Winston Churchill said had resorted to a doctrine of “frightfulness” In the Commons he described “frightfulness” as “the inflicting of great slaughter or massacre …with the intention of terrorizing not merely the rest of the crowd but the whole district or country.”

The loss of hundreds of lives and the injuries of countless others in the Punjab – a territory I visited in November –  was an act of brutality that stunned this nation.  Although the House of Commons denounced Dyer. The House of Lords initially offered Dyer accolades.

The 13th of April will mark 100 years since the Jallianwala Bagh – the Amritsar Massacre – but as time passes that tragedy must not be forgotten.

One hundred years later, perhaps today we can atone and help to heal that shocking moment of history.

Recall that a group of people had gathered to hold a peaceful public meeting – a public meeting that was prohibited by British law. The response to this disobedience was wholly disproportionate and excessive. Nothing can ever justify such an excessive use of force that day.

This remains true in our own times.  So often we fall into the definition of insanity often credited to Albert Einstein that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

Yet, while we are marking the Amritsar Massacre other insane contemporary tragedies are unfolding in many parts of the world. And those responsible for them should not expect different results from those that flowed from Jallianwala Bagh.

Take, for instance, what happened on 12 February 2019 in Burma when over a thousand Karenni protesters gathered to hold a peaceful protest the erection of the statue to General Aung San, the founder of the Tatmadaw, the Burmese Army, and failed to honour the promise of autonomy for ethnic minorities in a federal Burma.

The response to the peaceful protest was excessive and violent. The UN reported: ‘Police fired rubber bullets and used batons and water cannons injuring up to 15 protesters in Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State and home to the Karenni ethnic minority.’ Furthermore, since the beginning of February, police have arrested at least 55 people who protested the erection of new statute.

The date of that peaceful protest is not irrelevant. 12 February 2019 marks 72 years since the 12 February 1947 when the pact was made with many of the country’s ethnic minorities promising a federal Burma- a great promise still waiting to be fulfilled as the position of ethnic and religious minorities in Burma – including the Rohingya and Kachin – continues to deteriorate and their rights neglected and trampled on.


Elsewhere, a few weeks earlier, in January 2019, the UN reported on the use of excessive force in Sudan against protesters – on a greater scale than the insurrections of 1964 and 1985 and which have been going on countrywide for weeks in the biggest popular uprising since 1956.

Only last week I met with Opposition leaders from Sudan.

They described the use of live ammunition by security forces against protesters; egregious human rights violations, including at least 57 killings, torture, rape; and imprisonment of women and children

Hundreds have been arrested and, according to the UN, they include journalists, civil society representatives and opposition leaders. Others such as Channel 4s, Yousrall Baghir, have been severely harassed.

The UN says that the security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition inside the premises of the Omdurman Hospital where some of the protesters sought refuge. It is reported that attacks also took place at the Bahri Teaching Hospital and Haj Al-Safi Hospital. Doctors have been prohibited from treating the wounded.

These events in Burma and Sudan – both countries I have visited – are just two examples from the last two months.

But the picture elsewhere in the world also suggests that we have a long way to go before we learn the lessons of Jallianwala Bagh.

In 2018, in Nicaragua, thousands of people took to the streets to protest against its repressive regime. The Council of the European Union noted that these protests were, ‘brutally repressed by security forces and pro-government armed groups leading to clashes, several hundreds dead and injured and the arrest of hundreds of citizens, with widespread irregularities and arbitrariness in detention and judicial procedures.’ The victims of this excessive use of force include young students; and as I learnt from a Nicaraguan I met last week this dire situation in Nicaragua continues and I have sent a full report to the Foreign Secretary.

Peaceful protests or public gatherings are protected under the right to freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly, both enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 19 and 21.

Regardless of whether a State has ratified the ICCPR, people’s rights are also protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Articles 19 and 20. UDHR constitutes a part of the customary international law and hence is binding upon all States.

Perhaps the best memorial to the victims of Jallianwala Bagh would be for the international community to finally find ways of insisting that these rights are adequately recognized and enforced.

the British government must use all diplomatic means to deliver such a message.

The Amritsar massacre will never be erased from our history books.

But when Britain puts itself in the vanguard by fearlessly speaking out for the people who cannot do it for themselves; by protecting communities in need; by vociferously insisting on the protection of human rights, and specifically, the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly; it can help to redeem the callous and violent use of power which one hundred years ago at Amritsar Churchill described as “ an extraordinary event, a monstrous event, an event which stands in singular and sinister isolation.”

The Battle Against Asbestos Related Diseases Such As Mesothelioma – which will kill another 60,000 British people unless we find a cure – Raised In Parliament. 

The Battle Against Asbestos Related Diseases Such As Mesothelioma – which will kill another 60,000 British people Unless We Find A Cure – Raised In Parliament Thursday February 14th 2019. 



Also see:



Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)




My Lords, if the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, does not mind, I would rather change the metaphor and say that I am very pleased to be part of the infantry; on this issue she is a very good general.


The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester, made her case admirably, too and I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which she introduced the orders.


I return to an issue that I have raised often in your Lordships House: the harrowing and lethal effects of mesothelioma, something which unites all of us in all parts of the House. 


Many of us in the Chamber today have been involved in the fight against mesothelioma for many years and I am pleased to see this important issue again being debated in your Lordships’ House.


I wholeheartedly support the uprating of the lump sum payments in line with inflation. It is a matter of compassion, of justice—I will return to that issue—and of equalisation. 


In that last respect, I was disappointed by one thing that the Minister said, although I rather anticipated that she would say it—I shall return to that matter, too.


As the Minister told us, mesothelioma is an invasive type of cancer caused by prior exposure to asbestos.


 It grows in the pleural membrane, which lines the outside of the lung and the inside of the chest. Less commonly, it can also affect a similar lining around the abdomen or heart. There is currently no cure and mesothelioma patients often have a short life expectancy and experience complex, debilitating symptoms.


 I vividly remember when I was a Member of House of Commons, representing an inner-city area of Liverpool, constituents coming to see me once there had been a diagnosis and then meeting the widow only weeks later, their loved one having died.


The UK has the highest rate of the disease in the world. Mortality rates have more than quadrupled over the past 30 years. It is estimated that around 2,400 people die of the disease every year and that, over the next 30 years, around 60,000 people will die of mesothelioma in the United Kingdom unless new treatments are found.


When these regulations were discussed in the other place, a number of Members of the House of Commons asked whether future increases could be made automatic rather than be made at the discretion of Parliament. 


The Minister there agreed to consider this. 


It is important that the Government carefully consider the argument. Has any consideration been given since the Commons stages about making the payments automatic? It is vital that we continue to support people and their families affected by these awful diseases.


Back in 2014 I tabled an amendment to the Mesothelioma Bill, and in 2015 I introduced a Private Member’s Bill which would have set up a small levy on participating insurance firms to help secure long-term funding for research into mesothelioma, an issue on which the noble Lords, Lord Wills and Lord Giddens, played an important part. 


At the time, it was estimated that 150 insurance firms were active in the employers’ liability insurance market, and this had the potential to raise around £1.5 million a year for research. 


This represented a very small amount of money to each of the insurance companies, but would have resulted in a great number of research opportunities. It would also have given great hope to people living with mesothelioma and to their families. 


Unfortunately, the amendment and the Bill were defeated.


Since then, the Government have allocated £5 million for a National Centre for Mesothelioma Research at Imperial College, and I thank Ministers who put in considerable effort to secure that and to look at voluntary funding from the insurance industry. 


I am very pleased that the British Lung Foundation, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, was also able to secure match funding for this £5 million from a philanthropist who has seen the devastation wreaked by this disease. 


Unfortunately, although several individual insurance companies, including Aviva, Zurich, RSA and Allianz, had also, to their credit, previously contributed towards research into mesothelioma, negotiations for a broader, long-term funding commitment from the insurance industry came to a standstill. 


More recently, there have been some impressive results in mesothelioma research, which demonstrates why it is important for us to find more funding. 


Through the match funding, the BLF set up the Mesothelioma Research Network to bring researchers together to share ideas and support each other’s research. Our understanding of the genetics of mesothelioma has increased at the same time as a breakthrough in harnessing the immune system against cancer, and a clinical trial, the first of its type, has just opened in Leicester.


Another BLF-funded project is currently looking at ways to treat mesothelioma with immunotherapy. 


The creation of the MesobanK project now allows researchers across the world to access tissue and blood samples and other clinical data. The first MesobanK-British Lung Foundation fellowship is helping to develop gold nanotubes as potential new mesothelioma therapies. The British Lung Foundation continues to raise awareness of occupational lung disease, most recently through the creation of the Taskforce for Lung Health. 


The task force is a coalition of 30 organisations from across the lung health sector, including royal colleges, patients and the Health and Safety Executive, who came together to develop a five-year national plan to improve lung health in England. It makes recommendations to improve awareness of and compliance with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and to embed understanding of occupational lung disease in healthcare professional training.


Because this field is so underfunded, every pound of investment is likely to be worth while and to attract further funding.


 I pay particular tribute to Penny Woods and the British Lung Foundation, which continues its work to secure that funding for vital mesothelioma research. It has recently been able to leverage further research through the success of previous projects, helping to secure a £10 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. 


While I fully support compensation for the victims of these diseases, it is surely in everyone’s interest—the victims, the Government and insurers—to invest in finding a cure. This would, in the long term, remove the need for lump sum payments or any insurance industry levies. Investment in research is crucial.


On the subject of lump sum payments, as the noble Baroness told us, two statutory schemes make payments to mesothelioma sufferers, both of which make payments according to the age of the sufferer and their level of disablement. 


Both make payments either to mesothelioma sufferers who claim a payment in life—so-called in-life claims—or to their dependants where a claim is made after death. These are so-called dependency claims. 


However, there is significant inequality between dependency and in-life payments. 


From April 2019, the maximum in-life payment for a sufferer aged 77 is £14,334 and for a sufferer aged 37 is £92,259. From the same date, the maximum dependency payment for a sufferer aged 77 is £7,949 and £48,013 for a sufferer aged 37. Dependency payments are 45% less for a sufferer aged 77 and 48% less for a sufferer aged 37.


 1.15 pm


The disparity between payments is partly the result of the difference in assessment of disablement and age of the sufferer. In-life payments under the 1979 Act are assessed at a maximum of 100% disablement. Dependency payments are assessed at 50% or over. In-life payments under the 1979 Act are paid on a rising scale up to the age of 77 and over. Dependency payments are paid on a rising scale up to the age of 67 and over. 


Most dependency payments are made to women—widows of mesothelioma sufferers who are doubly disadvantaged by low dependency payments. As the average age of sufferers is approximately 77, many widows, who traditionally may not have a full record of employment, may have very poor pensions, a point alluded to in our discussions on the earlier orders. 


Personal injury compensation payments to dependants are higher than compensation payments to sufferers paid in life.


The law recognises the financial loss incurred by widows of mesothelioma sufferers. The number of dependency claims compared to in-life claims is very small. In 2017 under the 2008 Act, there were 20 dependency payments and 370 in-life payments. In that year, under the 1979 Act, there were 240 dependency payments and 2,770 in-life payments. As a percentage of total payments, dependency payments make up 8.2%. In 2017, the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum estimated that the percentage was approximately 10%. 


One reason for the decline in dependency payments is the success of the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office in identifying employers’ liability insurance. This has resulted in an increase in the amount of benefit and lump sum payments recovered by the Government. In 2017, the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum estimated that the cost of equalising payments would be approximately £1.5 million. 


In the same year, the Government estimated the cost at £2 million. Yet in 2018, the Government estimated the cost of equalising payments to be £5 million. 


Can the Minister explain why this estimate has more than doubled and how that figure of £5 million was reached?


It was in 2010 that the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, the then Minister, to whom I pay particular tribute, committed the Government to equalising payments and went on to do so. 


In that year, he increased dependency payments to commence a gradual process of equalising payments. Nothing has been done since the noble Lord did that back in 2010. 


Manifestly, there is an unjustifiable disparity between dependency and in-life payments. The number of dependency payments is a fraction of total payments, just 8.2%. The cost of equalising payments is modest: between £1.5 million and £2 million. 


Meanwhile, it is worth noting that the Government have benefited from increased benefits and lump sum recoveries as a result of the stimulus to the Employers’ Liability Tracing Office in finding employment liability insurers once the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme made employers’ liability insurers responsible for untraced insurance. Furthermore, the Government have recovered millions in benefits and lump sum recoveries as a result of the Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme payments which incur such recoveries. 


The millions of pounds in recoveries dwarf the modest cost of equalising the payments.


So I welcome the Government’s decision to accept their duty to honour the previous Government’s commitment to equalise payments. However, successive Ministers have excused themselves in the manner of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who said:


“However, we do not intend to equalise payments this year. Instead, we will continue to keep this matter under review and consider equalisation, once resources allow”.—[Official Report, 28/2/17; col. GC 193.]


Can the Minister, when she comes to reply, tell us when that elusive date might finally be reached?


I have two other brief questions for the Minister, of which I have given her notice. 


I sent her an email last night; I hope it arrived. 


During the passage of the Mesothelioma Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Freud, gave a commitment to increase DMPS payments in line with CPI. Despite his commitment, this has not been done. Would the Minister explain why the commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Freud, to implement annual CPI increases, at a time when it was already known that the scheme would not make 100% awards, has not been honoured since the establishment of the DMPS?


My final point, alluded to a moment ago by the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, is on the position of people in the Armed Forces and those affected at a step’s remove, such as those who might have been washing overalls. 


I recall, in some of the debates I referred to earlier, that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, movingly described how his own sister had died through washing her husband’s overalls after he came home from the factory. 


The MoD mesothelioma scheme—to which the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, also referred in previous debates—pays lump sum compensation in lieu of a war disablement pension to veterans exposed to asbestos while serving in the Armed Forces. 


As the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, said, there has been little research on why these things occur in the Armed Forces. 


Why have we not increased payments since the scheme’s inception in 2016? 


Do the Government have any plans to increase the level of payments made under the MoD scheme? If not, why not?


Full debate at:




Threat To Murder An Innocent Woman Who Has Languished On Death Row  for Nine Years. Pakistan’s Supreme Court Upholds Their Decision To Free Asia Bibi. Questions asked in Parliament about renewed threats to her life and the role of UK aid in promoting a less discriminatory society. BBC Report.


Threat To Murder An Innocent Woman Who Has Languished On Death Row  for Nine Years

Baroness Williams of Trafford, the Home Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL13272):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made, if any, of the comments of Hafiz Entisha Ahmed published in the Guardian on 30 January that Asia Bibi “deserves to be murdered”; and, following the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to uphold her acquittal following nine years’ incarceration on death row, why she has not immediately been offered asylum in the UK. (HL13272)

Tabled on: 30 January 2019

Baroness Williams of Trafford:

As the Prime Minister set out on 14 November, the release of Asia Bibi will be very welcome news to her family and to all those who have campaigned in Pakistan and around the world for her release. We welcome the assurances the Government of Pakistan has given on keeping her and her family safe, and it is important that all countries seek to uphold the rule of law and afford security and protection for the rights of all citizens irrespective of faith or belief.

It is a longstanding Government policy not to comment on individual cases. In accordance with our duty of confidentiality, we cannot confirm whether an asylum claim has been received or the outcome of such a request. Departing from this policy may put individuals and their family members in danger.

We remain deeply concerned by the misuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, and the fact that religious minorities are disproportionately affected. The harsh penalties for blasphemy, including the death penalty, add to these concerns.

We regularly raise our human rights concerns with the Government of Pakistan at a senior level; and we have urged them to take steps to prevent the misuse of the blasphemy laws. My Foreign and Commonwealth colleague, the Minister of State for Commonwealth and the UN, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, discussed our concerns about Freedom of Religion or Belief and the protection of minority religious communities with Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister, Dr Shireen Mazari, in September 2018. We will continue to press the new Government of Pakistan to adhere to its international obligations and uphold the rule of law.

Date and time of answer: 13 Feb 2019 at 16:35.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court Upholds Their Decision To Free Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi


This is a very welcome and courageous judgement from the Supreme Court.  Inevitably, it will test the Pakistan Government’s resolve in dealing with the intimidation and threats posed by Tehrik-e-Labbaik, who have threatened mass public protests. But mob rule must never be allowed to overpower the rule of law – and in ensuring due process Pakistan’s highest legal authorities deserve our greatest possible respect.


I feel huge admiration for the Supreme Court justices who, by taking this decision, have been willing to put the rule of law above every other consideration.


We cannot forget that Asia Bibi’s case is one of many, and that, by some estimates, more than 70 people are currently on death-row for alleged blasphemy crimes.


Pakistan’s remarkable founder,  Muhammed Ali Jinnah,  passionately believed  that minorities should have a place of dignity and respect in Pakistan. It’s a principle even woven into the country’s flag.  How countries treat their minorities is a crucial litmus test and Pakistan simply needs to look at its own foundation principles to see that they are failing the Jinnah-test, as minorities face discrimination and persecution.


Asia Bibi has endured hell. Imprisoned on a trumped up charge, she has spent nine years in prison, facing execution. Her two daughters have had a short childhood – one largely without their mother. Yes, this is a significant day, but we must not forget that this long overdue outcome has been paid for in blood. Two great Pakistanis – Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer – Christian and Muslim –  were murdered for their advocacy on this case.


Asia Bibi has spent nine years in prison, facing execution. She now needs to be reunited with her family and given time and space to rebuild her life.


Also see:


Oral Question January 30th 2019

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)


My Lords, the World Bank estimates that some 800 million people are racked by starvation, despair or living below any rational definition of human decency. The Minister is right to remind us that, as long ago as 1970, in Resolution 2626, the United Nations urged us to find this 0.7% figure. Does he agree that people expect their money to be spent well? I draw his attention to a Question that I asked him on the Order Paper today concerning discrimination and persecution in countries such as Pakistan, which is the biggest recipient of British aid—£383,000 each and every single day. Will he ensure that where British money is being spent, it will tackle ​the plight of minorities, particularly by preventing people from religious minorities from being subjected to discrimination, persecution and even genocide?



Lord Bates


I am delighted to give that reassurance. This Government have been at the fore on this issue. The Prime Minister has made announcements on it and has appointed her first Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, my noble friend Lord Ahmad. We are proud of that, and we have to uphold, keep to and maintain those standards.




Lord Alton of Liverpool asked:

Question Tabled Monday 28th January 2019

What assessment they have made of the case of Pervais Masih, accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, the treatment of his family and the death of his daughter; and whether they have discussed this case with the government of Pakistan.

Whether they have discussed the case of Qaisar and Amoon Ayub with (1) the government of Thailand, and (2) the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; if so, when any such discussions took place; and if not, why not.


Question Tabled Tuesday 29th January 2019

What discussions they have had with the government of Pakistan about employment discrimination, with particular regard to advertisements published by that government which reserve low level jobs, such as street sweeping, for religious minorities; whether UK aid supports employment opportunities in the public sector closed to religious minorities; and whether they support programmes which help illiterate members of religious minorities in that country to improve their employment prospects.

Written Questions On the Order Paper January 31st 2019


What assessment they have made, if any, of the comments of Hafiz Entisha Ahmed published in the Guardian on 30 January that Asia Bibi “deserves to be murdered”; and, following the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to uphold her acquittal following nine years’ incarceration on death row, why she has not immediately been offered asylum in the UK.




why their review into the persecution of Christians does not include within its scope the effect of DfID and Home Office policies on aid and asylum.





when the full terms of reference for their review into the persecution of Christians will be published.




when it is expected that their review into the persecution of Christians will publish its findings and recommendations.


Carnage and Murder in the Philippines As innocent People Pay The Price of Extremism. Parliament Debates the Human Rights Violations of the Duterte Government. Calls to Protect Filipino Workers From Exploitation and Trafficking. Extremists Urged To End the Violence In Joint Declaration in UAE


Carnage and Murder in the Philippines As innocent People Pay The Price of Extremism

Two bombs exploded  (27th January) during Sunday Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, southern Philippines, killing 20 people and wounding dozens more, according to local police.

Deash (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, but in a radio interview, Colonel Gerry Besana of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said that CCTV footage suggested a break-away faction of Islamist extremist group Abu Sayyaf could be responsible.

Abu Sayyaf has pledged allegiance to Daesh.

Since 2000, there have been at least 10 attacks on or near the cathedral, many of which Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for.

Also see

It makes the point that:

“The violence has left Mindanao one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.”

The Guardian  makes the point that:

“Foreign fighters are in the Philippines because they consider the country, particularly Mindanao, as a safe haven, alternative home base and a new land of jihad”


“Many seek the relative sanctuary of the southern Philippines,” he said. “There they can regroup, train and plot attacks. With Isis’s declaration of an east Asia wilayah, the southern Philippines becomes more important because there is enough ungoverned or very poorly governed space.”

The Guardian continues:

“There is also continuing support for Isis-affiliated groups among local Muslims, many who are still displaced from the Marawi conflict or disaffected by widespread corruption and broken government promises of peace and autonomy in Mindanao.”

The  threat is already forcing regional powers to collaborate:

The NYT says:

“More than 500 Indonesians have joined the Islamic State in Syria”

Also see:



Last Thursday, Lord Hylton initiated a debate in the House of Lords about human rights violations in the Philippines. It  was an opportunity to highlight appalling human rights violations by the Duterte Government and the exploitation and trafficking of Filipino workers.

To read the full debate go to:


Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)


My Lords, I too congratulate my noble friend Lord Hylton on securing this debate. No one in this House needs persuading of his long-standing and tenacious commitment to human rights. It is characteristic of him not to have lost sight of the plight of suffering Filipinos. 


I hope the Minister will respond to the recommendations that he has made, and particularly to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that the Philippines should be officially designated as a country of concern. 


That would be a positive outcome of today’s debate.


I have a non-pecuniary interest as a trustee of the Arise Foundation, an anti-slavery charity with a brilliant team that does superb work in various countries of origin for trafficked people, including the Philippines.


In addition to the human rights abuses in the Philippines itself, we would do well to remember the many thousands of Filipinos working abroad who suffer exploitation.


 I was shocked when I first learned that over 10% of the entire GDP of the Filipino economy is remitted back to the Philippines from abroad from an estimated 2.3 million overseas Filipino workers. 


The principal countries of destination are: Saudi Arabia, which takes 25.4% of these workers; the UAE, 15.3%, Hong Kong, 6.5%; and Qatar, 5.5%.


I know from work by the Arise Foundation that many of these Filipinos are exploited and enslaved in unimaginably cruel and inhumane conditions. 


I go so far as to say that the stories of Filipina women enslaved in the Middle East are the most extreme and unrepeatable I have ever heard. 


The situation is Qatar is so bad that the Philippine embassy has a rescue shelter attached to it which is reportedly always full. 


Can the Minister tell us whether the dire and well-documented human rights conditions of Filipino overseas workers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar feature in our discussions with the respective Governments?


While considering the difficulties faced by Filipinos abroad, we also need to look closer to home. 


Even if they find work, there is no guarantee that they can remit their earnings back to their families. What measures are in place to ensure that companies do not charge unfair and exorbitant fees to transfer money home? 


During the passage of the modern slavery legislation, my noble friend Lord Hylton and I divided your Lordships’ House on the issue of domestic migrant labour. 


Many Filipinos are tricked by unscrupulous employment agencies who prey on their hopes for a better life. Some take on huge debts to pay unaffordable agency fees which have to be paid back once work has begun—a well-worn pattern leading to debt bondage in the destination country.


The UK is a significant destination for Filipinos seeking employment as domestic workers; sadly, the Philippines is never far down the list of source nations for modern slavery victims of our own national referral mechanism. 


What are we doing to disrupt the unethical recruitment corridor that clearly exists between the Philippines and the UK? 


The United Kingdom has a memorandum of understanding with the Government of the Philippines to enable the recruitment of nurses and other health professionals. 


In 2018 the number of Philippines-born workers in the National Health Service was 15,400. What guarantees can the Minister give that our recruitment methods are ethical and respect the communities from which these workers are sourced?


Arise works with front-line charities in the Philippines which continue to do superb work in difficult circumstances. 


Many of them have stood bravely against Duterte’s Administration, as described so powerfully and so well by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, a few moments ago. 


Unfortunately, bilateral funding for work such as theirs has decreased due to lack of confidence in that Government. 


Many of the charities working in the Philippines are struggling for support. 


I hope the Minister will assure us that, in allocating UK aid, we will not make the mistake of conflating worthy front-line work with a wayward Government, and will not falter in our commitment to the wonderful Filipino people.


 5.24 pm


In response the Minister, Baroness Goldie said:


The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked for certain assurances for Filipinos working abroad. It is difficult for the UK to intervene in the affairs of other sovereign states. However, the British embassy in Manila and the Government of the Philippines co-chair a working group on the rights of domestic and tourist workers. The group looks at ways to improve the rights of Filipino workers abroad and fosters collaboration between government and international agencies. That was a point that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, also sought assurance on.


The noble Lord, Lord Alton, also raised the issue of Filipino workers in this country. We have removed the overseas domestic worker visa tie and will be introducing additional reforms to ensure that workers are even better protected from abuse and slavery. These new measures will include information sessions for overseas domestic workers to ensure that they are aware of their rights as workers in the UK. He will also be aware that the Modern Slavery Act introduced a range of powerful protections for victims, including greater support through legal aid, special measures in court and immunity from immigration enforcement action.



Extremists Urged To End the Violence In Joint Declaration in UAE


Thu 07-02-2019 17:34 PM


Human Fraternity declaration ‘sends strong message,’ says UK Parliamentarian

LONDON, 7th February, 2019 (WAM) —

The Declaration on Human Fraternity signed in Abu Dhabi this week by Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, and Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar, “sends a strong message to those, on both sides, who seek to promote division and extremist views,” according to British parliamentarian Lord Alton of Liverpool.

Lord Alton, a  member of the House of Lords, works actively on human rights and religious liberty issues.

Noting that the Human Fraternity declaration had been “proclaimed in Arabia,” he told the Emirates News Agency, WAM, that “this is hugely important In the Middle East, which has seen so much strife in recent years.”

“The greatest challenge of the 21st century is how we learn to respectfully live together, honouring each other’s traditions and recognising the strength of diversity and difference,” he added.

“The antidote to the horrific persecution of Rohingya and other Muslims or the genocide of Christians and other Middle Eastern minorities must be a new determination by religious and political leaders to promote mutual respect and tolerance. The Pope’s visit should stir us all to denounce and combat violent extremism and visceral hatred wherever it emerges.”

Lord Alton, who is president of the UK Copts Association, a body representing the Egyptian Coptic population in Britain, went on to note that, “The UAE’s proclamation of 2019 as the ‘Year of Tolerance’ and the first-ever visit of a Catholic Pope to the Arabian peninsula – birthplace of Islam – is powerfully symbolic. So too were the frequent references made during the visit by Pope Francis to the UAE’s own heritage of a 1400 year old Christian presence.”

“The UAE has initiated really important interfaith dialogue and respect,” he said. “The country’s willingness to welcome many faiths and cultures, with its own thriving Christian expatriate communities, demonstrates how we can begin to meet the challenge of learning to live together.”