- UN side event in Geneva outlines future steps to prevent religious persecution and protect its victims
- Panel discussion takes place amidst reports of increasing religious violence
GENEVA (8 July 2019) – This week, a large group of delegations at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva hosted a side event regarding religious violence and persecution. The event came in the wake of the recent introduction of the “International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief.” It was titled, “One Step at a Time: Addressing Religious Violence and Persecution.”
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. It is very encouraging to witness renewed momentum since the establishment of the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief. The General Assembly reaffirmed clearly that all people have the right to live out their faith free from violence and persecution. Religious persecution is globally on the rise and while commemorating its victims is important, actions need to be taken to ensure there will not be more victims in the future. We therefore urge all states to ensure that laws and policies at all levels are in line with their commitments to protect religious freedom under international law,” said Giorgio Mazzoli, UN Representative for ADF International in Geneva.
The event was hosted by Poland, Brazil, and Iraq in cooperation with Greece, Japan, Nigeria, Senegal, the Holy See, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and ADF International. Speakers included Ambassador Zbigniew Czech, Mr. Sérgio Augusto de Queiroz, National Secretary for Global Protection, Brazilian Ministry of Women, Family & Human Rights, Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ambassador Hussain Mahmoud Alkhateeb, and Ewelina Ochab, Polish Legal Researcher and Human Rights Advocate, University of Kent.
Necessary steps to combat religious persecution
The panel discussion was held at a time where a dramatic increase of religious persecution is being reported. The participants suggested possible steps to counter this concerning development on an international level. While a new UN forum on freedom of religion or belief could serve as a platform for engagement from civil society representatives, every state should introduce a special rapporteur on freedom of religion, the delegates urged.
“Many countries around the world still have laws that imprison believers for proselytization or blasphemy…it’s important to recall the declaration that protects the right of free speech in private and in public,” said de Queiroz.
Mazzoli said, “While your presence at this event is already an act of solidarity with persecuted believers all over the globe, our hope is that the establishment of an International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief may open the eyes of the world, and help us to not lose sight of their plight until the lives of those suffering are protected, their dignity is defended, and their rights are guaranteed…we are not only speaking about restoring their human rights. We are also speaking about strengthening cooperation efforts at all levels and ensuring that the international community moves beyond remembrance to action.”