For the first time, a Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief has been appointed in the United Kingdom to promote international religious liberty and fight persecution.

Lord Tariq Mahmood Ahmad, who is Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations, was selected for the role.

Ahmad also serves as the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.

In the role, Ahmad “will promote the UK’s firm stance on religious tolerance abroad, helping to tackle religious discrimination in countries where minority faith groups face persecution,” the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said in a statement.

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Ahmad said he was delighted by the appointment and plans to “use the UK Government’s global network to reach across religious divides, seek the elimination of discrimination on the basis of religion or belief and bring different communities together.”

“In too many parts of the world, religious minorities are persecuted, discriminated against and treated as second class citizens. As a man of faith, I feel this very keenly,” he said in a statement.

“Freedom of Religion or Belief is a human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It must be respected. People from all faiths or none should be free to practice as they wish. This respect is key to global stability and is in all our interests,” he added.

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