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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

27th March 2014

Defending freedom of religion or belief worldwide

FCO Minister Baroness Warsi chairs a meeting of the FCO Advisory Group on freedom of religion or belief in London, 25 March 2014.

Earlier this week, the Senior Minister of State and Minister for Faith, Baroness Warsi, held the first meeting of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Advisory Group on freedom of religion and belief. The group usefully supplements the FCO’s regular dialogues with religious leaders by bringing together lay experts from a wide spectrum of faiths (and none, as freedom not to believe must also be protected) that will advise FCO Ministers and staff on how to build on the active approach we are already taking to promoting and protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief worldwide.

One of the members of the group is the Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Mervyn Thomas, and this week I had the opportunity to meet the CSW team leader for East Asia, Benedict Rogers, to talk about their work in the region, in particular in the light of Pope Francis’ trip to South Korea later this year. Rogers highlighted the report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into human rights in North Korea, and the particular concern of the report’s author, Justice Michael Kirby, of persecution of people in North Korea for their religious beliefs.

Sadly, I expect the FCO Advisory Group to be busy. If anything, persecution of people for their religious beliefs is on the rise in many parts of the world; in Baroness Warsi’s words, “a global crisis”. There are many excellent groups like CSW doing important work wherever persecution takes place. It is right that the issue should also be a priority for the UK government.

About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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