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Norwegian embassies to help protect freedom of religion

Minister of Foreign Affairs Jona Gahr Støre has instructed all Norwegian embassies to report whenever they discover a breach on people's freedom of religion.

The embassies will file regular reports concerning freedom of religion, and employees at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have their own counselor for any issues related to freedom of religion.

Støre traveled to Egypt on Tuesday, and will discuss the situation for the Coptic Minority when he meets Egypt's new leadership. There is a concern that the increasing Islamization of Egypt may lead to more pressure on the Coptics.

"I want to express to them that we have seen examples of stigmatization, discrimination and even violence towards religious minorities," says Støre. "The internationa lcommunity is following this closely, and it will affect how we view the new Egypt."

Through Støre's new program for religious minorities, persecuted Christians will receive much more attention from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Although the project is directed at all religious minorities, and also at sexual minorities, Christians will probably have the most focus.

"They are at risk in many countries. We have to face that reality," Støre explains.

Christian organizations, church communities and human rights organizations have asked the government to focus more on Christian minorities for several years.

The project is positive, but started late, says Dagfinn Høybråten, Member of Parliament from the Christian Democrats (KrF). "It's an important breakthrough in one of KrF's most important platforms," the MP explains.

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