I’m very grateful for the opportunity to join this very significant summit again. It’s a remarkable achievement, so well done.
I have a particular take on the struggle we’re involved in. I want to take the opportunity to highlight a recent statement by Dr. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and supported by 40 British Bishops of whom I’m one, expressing a really deep concern about the deteriorating human rights situation and the persecution of religious minorities in Iran. At the end of June, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard conducted a coordinated operation in Tehran and two other cities, aimed at disrupting the country’s house church movement and sweeping up members of the Iranian Christian community. I think those arrests could be an early example of Tehran’s implementation of new laws, passed in May, that have been highlighted by supporters of Iranian Christians and other religious groups as broadening the judiciary’s authority, making it easier to prosecute a group of people on arbitrary charges like working to undermine national security or committing to enmity with God and other ridiculous things. And all of these are punishable with harsh prison sentences and possibly even execution. In a statement for the United Nations Universal Periodic Review this year, the United Kingdom government referred to the popular protests in Iran, the ones last year in particular as they got going again, and said, I quote, “In November last year, we saw the most deadly crackdown against its citizens for decades. While persecution and discrimination towards religious minorities continues unabated.”
We do applaud the UK government’s decision to classify Iran as a human rights priority country and to commit to hold it to account for its human rights abuses We now call on the UK government and the Foreign Commonwealth Office to do more at the United Nations and internationally [to] end the impunity that the perpetrators of serious human rights violations enjoy in Iran. [This is] a challenge we put to all governments dealing with this Iranian regime.
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