However, I believe that one word and cause of inequality is missing from that group: belief. No one should be left behind because of what they believe, whether they have any faith or none. Ministers know that I have raised on a number of occasions my concern that an underlying cause of poverty is a lack of freedom of belief, freedom of thought or the freedom of speech that can follow, resulting in conflict, violence, loss of opportunities, homelessness, displacement and more. If we are determined to tackle the underlying causes of poverty, we cannot leave that behind. Fostering religious freedom should be seen as a priority not only for tackling conflict once it has happened, but to prevent it before it takes place and to promote stability.
Let me give another example—sustainable development goal 16, the promotion of peace, as well as sustainable development goal 8, economic growth. In countries where freedom of belief is not respected, conflict disrupts economic activity. Foreign and local investors become reluctant to invest, jeopardising sustainable development and economic growth. As businesses corroborate, an opportunity to invest, conduct normal business practice and prevent industries from struggling is weakened. Egypt’s tourism industry, for example, has faced such challenges. By promoting and practising freedom of belief, a path to security and economic well-being can be laid.
I urge Ministers to consider this and to engage faith groups in their civil society review. Is it not time to review the Department’s faith partnership principles? Finally, would DFID consider engaging in the joint learning initiatives on faith and development instituted by some of the major international NGOs working on poverty relief, such as Tearfund, CAFOD and World Vision?”