The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution proclaiming August 22 as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief in response to the unprecedented rise of violence against religious communities and people belonging to religious minorities.
The Assembly invited all Member States, the United Nations, and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society and the private sector, to observe the International Day. It also requested that the UN Secretary-General bring the resolution to the attention of all Member States and United Nations bodies for observance.
“Any acts of violence against people belonging to religious minorities cannot be accepted,” stressed Poland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jacek Czaputowicz, as he introduced the draft resolution on behalf of his country, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the United States.
The International Day will aim to honor the victims and survivors who often remain forgotten, Czaputowicz said, according to a press release, recalling the recent spate of attacks, including on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the targeting of Christians in Sri Lanka during Easter Sunday.
Hatred towards religious groups may lead to mass killing of innocent people, he cautioned, citing reports that one third of the world’s population suffers from some form of religious persecution. Acts of terror are intended to intimidate members of religious communities and, as a result, to hold them back from practicing their faith. In some countries, religious practice is forbidden even at home, and sometimes the representatives of religious minorities are refused religious funerals.
The case of abduction and murder of priests, the disappearance and resettlement of religious leaders, torture and beating based on religion or belief by the police are only some examples of the persecution and discriminatory behavior towards religious minorities. The resolution does not relate to any specific religion or belief, but to all victims of violence and seeks to raise awareness of the importance of respect for religious diversity, he added.
“We hope that it will help combat hate crimes and acts of violence related to religion or belief, and will further strengthen interreligious dialogue,” he added, noting that the resolution can serve in promoting diversity and inclusion.
The resolution was heralded religious freedom advocates around the world as a clear statement from the United Nations that persecution on the basis of religion or belief cannot be permitted and the victims must never be forgotten.
But many also noted that the resolution is not enough.
“While I applaud the UN General Assembly’s first-ever commemoration of violence against individuals based on their religion or beliefs, there must be much more than a resolution,” stated Janet Parshall, chairman of NRB’s board of directors. “Concrete action must be taken by governments around the world to ensure that everyone is free to believe as they see fit and to put into practice those beliefs. Religious freedom is not germane to one country. It is a universal freedom that must be afforded to all.”
Kelsey Zorzi, president of the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the United Nations and director of advocacy for global religious freedom for ADF International, similarly said, “As we join together to reaffirm this right and remember those who have suffered, we also must recognize that resolutions alone are not enough.”
“Religious persecution is globally on the rise,” she added in a press release. ”We urge all states to ensure that their laws and policies are in line with their commitments to protect religious freedom under international law.”
According to recent reports by both U.S. and U.K. government entities, religious persecution is globally on the rise. The persecution of Christians worldwide is especially a growing concern, as stated in a report commissioned by the British Foreign Office, which confirms that Christians are globally the most persecuted religious group.
“We hope that today’s resolution and the new international day of commemoration will encourage governments to stand by those who are persecuted because of their faith,” said Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, in a press release. “This international day will help raise awareness concerning the plight of Christians and other religious minorities who are persecuted and denied fundamental rights. All people have the right to freely choose and live out their faith. We urge all governments to uphold this fundamental right and protect minorities.”