Don’t take freedom of belief for granted

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Whether it involves hunting for chocolate eggs or attending church, Easter is a special time for families.

Either in church or through other forms of contemplation, it’s an opportunity for Borderers to reflect on values, and what they mean for family, community and the country.

For Christians, the events of Easter are fundamental to their faith, providing the underpinning for the teachings of the Bible.

Throughout the year the world’s different faiths and religions have important celebrations and festivals.

All of this means that freedom of belief is one of the most important freedoms characterising our society today. It underpins human rights across the country and is a key building block of our democracy.

Freedom of belief is not only vital to the identity of believers, but also to those who choose not to practise a religion.

But in the United Kingdom we might be in danger of taking the right to freedom of belief for granted, since in many other countries across the world, it is non-existent – in the Middle East and Africa, for example, religious persecution is an everyday occurrence.

The promotion and protection of human rights – including freedom of religion – has to be at the heart of Government foreign policy. The Coalition Government has been very active in condemning religious persecution in all its forms.

Where individuals are not free to practise their faith, other freedoms are often under attack too. Governments across the world have a key role to play in creating the conditions for all people to practise their religion freely. More open and inclusive societies are the surest route to stability, and for ensuring security for Christians and other believers in the long term.

So whether we were in church or enjoyed chocolate eggs – or both –this Easter, perhaps we should take a moment to contemplate how lucky we are to live in a society that enjoys freedoms that are not afforded to many around the world

The United Kingdom must remain an outward-looking and forward-thinking country – and we should continue to stand up against the persecution of Christians and other religious groups wherever and whenever we can.

Finally, I hope everybody across the Borders – Christians and non-Christians – had a very happy Easter.