Substantial increase in support for religious minorities

'Around 70 % of the world's population live in countries where there are restrictions on freedom of religion and belief. We will therefore continue to step up our support for efforts to promote freedom of religion and belief, to the benefit of religious minorities,' said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

Over the last four years, there has been a gradual increase in Norway's support for religious minorities, from NOK 10 million in 2013 to NOK 48 million in 2017. In next year's budget, the Government plans to increase this support by a further NOK 30 million, to a total of NOK 78 million.

'During war and conflict, religious minorities are among the most vulnerable groups. They are often left to serve as a buffer between warring groups. The situation of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria gives particular cause for concern,' said Mr Brende.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working closely with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and international and Norwegian NGOs, including the World Council of Churches and Norwegian Church Aid, to strengthen efforts to protect religious minorities. Projects in various areas are receiving support. They include protecting and monitoring the situation of vulnerable groups, early warning measures, and measures to improve conditions for persecuted religious minorities who are being subjected to harassment and discrimination.