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Global commemoration for victims of religious persecution

Hugo Simon - La Croix International - Fri, Sep 6th 2019

NGOs call on nations 'to ensure that their laws and policies protect religious freedom'. 

San Sebastian Church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka. On April 21, eight attacks targeting Christians killed more than 250 people in the country. (Photo by Manish Swarup/AP)

The situation of minority faith groups continues to deteriorate year after year and, in response to this observation, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously decided last May to proclaim Aug. 22 as the International Day of Remembrance for Persons Who Have Suffered Violence Because Of Their Religion Or Belief.

The U.N. also intends to intensify actions to combat hate speech with the aim of eradicating all forms of religious persecution.

The NGO Aid to the Church in Need says 60 percent of humanity live in countries where religious freedom is not guaranteed.

In its latest report on religious freedom for 2018 another NGO, Together for the Development of Africa (EDA) noted a deterioration in the conditions of religious minorities in 18 of the 38 countries identified, four more than in 2016.

The decline was particularly severe in India and China, it said, and for the first time, it classified Russia and Kyrgyzstan in the category of "discrimination."

The NGO Doors Open estimates that 245 million Christians (one in nine) are still "strongly persecuted" in the world.

Tragedies, from New Zealand to Sri Lanka

According to the EDA, Western countries tend to ignore the problem and are more willing to focus on gender, sex and race discrimination.

But the tragic events of recent months have, it seems, put the issue of religious discrimination back on the agenda.

These include the attacks in March against two mosques in New Zealand and those against the Christian community on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, mentioned by Poland, one of the seven countries behind the project to create this day of commemoration.

The chairwoman of the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the United Nations, Kelsey Zorzi, welcomed the resolution while reiterating that recognition of the problem must be accompanied by concrete action.

"We urge all States to ensure that their laws and policies are consistent with their commitments to protect religious freedom under international law," she said.

Strong trade between China and US

When this international day was adopted, the question of State action had already given rise to lively exchanges.

The United States, which also initiated the text, has attacked China, accusing it of persecuting Uighur and Kazakh Muslim minorities, while Iran denounced the resurgence of Islamophobia in the United States, a symptom of the presence of "ultra-nationalist politicians."

Also targeted by the AED report, nationalist movements have been singled out at length as one of the main causes of increased religious persecution in recent years.

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