Lord Tariq Ahmad, pictured here with Pope Francis, is part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community (Vatican Media via Twitter @tariqahmadbt)

The UK has appointed a Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief to “promote inter-faith respect and dialogue internationally”, according to a press release by the UK government.

Following his appointment today, Lord Tariq Ahmad, who is also Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the UN at the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 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 release said.

“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,” said Lord Ahmad, who is part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, which has faced persecution from some other sectors within Islam.

“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 practise as they wish. This respect is key to global stability, and is in all our interests,” he continued.

“I am delighted to have been appointed as the PM’s Special Envoy. I shall 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.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Religious discrimination blights the lives of millions of people across the globe and leads to conflict and instability. Both [in the UK] and abroad, individuals are being denied the basic right of being able to practise their faith free of fear.

“Tolerance for those of different faiths is fundamental to our values, and is an issue I know is already of great importance to Lord Ahmad, who is constantly looking for fresh ways to promote religious liberty in his role as Minister for Human Rights at the Foreign Office.

“I look forward to supporting him in this new role as he works with faith groups and governments across the world to raise understanding of religious persecution and what we can do to eliminate it.”