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Elder Cook, Europe leaders participate in U.K. conference on preventing violence, promoting religious freedom

Elder Cook, Europe leaders participate in U.K. conference on preventing violence, promoting religious freedom

Led by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and local leaders, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints co-sponsored a recent multiday, multilocation “Preventing Violence, Promoting Freedom of Belief” international conference in the United Kingdom.

Hundreds of delegates — representing charity, government, academic and faith organizations — participated in the July 3-6 conference, with sessions in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

The conference theme focused on how women and children are leading interfaith peace-building efforts, reported the Church’s U.K. Newsroom.

Sessions were conducted in a wide range of locations, from the U.K. Parliament in London to the Birmingham Central Mosque to the Church’s Young Single Adult Building in Manchester.

Parliament member Fiona Bruce, the British prime minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, participated, giving the Church thanks for its advocacy of freedom of religion.

Attendees represented not only different faiths but differing sides of conflicts. Areas with representation at the conference included Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

The conference was held in conjunction with the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief, a global conference hosted in London by the U.K. government and attended by over 600 government representatives and civil society leaders from some 100 countries.

Joined by his wife, Sister Mary Cook, Elder Cook participated in an event hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, held July 5 at the U.K. Parliament. Other Latter-day Saint leaders involved included W. Cole Durham Jr., Brigham Young University law professor and president of the G20 Interfaith Forum, and Brett G. Scharffs, director of BYU’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies.

The Apostle described persecution against the Church throughout its history, including the Missouri extermination order in 1838. Those experiences, he said, “made us feel that we had a duty to protect others and to watch out for others who can’t fully defend themselves.”

He underscored how religious freedom and accountability benefits individuals, countries and secular societies, adding that when governments recognize such, “it gives them an impulse to protect religion” so that faith can “bless people, all people, not just religious people, not just people of faith — everyone.”


Professor Brett G. Scharffs, left, director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Brigham Young University, joins the July 5, 2022, panel at the UK Parliament with Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Thanking the Church for its advocacy of freedom of religion or belief and its organization and sponsorship of multiple events, including the conference, Bruce decried faith-based discrimination while speaking at a session at the Church’s Young Single Adult Building in Manchester on July 3.

“Right across the world today, people are losing their right to an education, to a job, a home, a livelihood, access to justice, even to life itself, simply because of what they believe,” said the member of parliament and special envoy. “This has to change.”

Sister Traci De Marco, an area organization adviser in the Church’s Europe North Area, called for “values-based action” to combat religious and gender-related persecution. “Imagine a world where this cruelty and abuse was eradicated,” she said. “This is the world I want for my children and grandchildren. This is the world we all want; this is the world we all deserve.”

Elder Alan T. Phillips, second counselor in the Europe North Area presidency, spoke in the conference’s concluding session and said people who are oppressed and persecuted must be seen and heard — especially women and children, who suffer disproportionately.

“We have heard at this conference from inspiriting women and youth who have reached across religious, political and cultural divides. They are the peacemakers and are the hope that things can be better. … All are members of the human family and as such are entitled to inalienable rights and human dignity.”

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