Day of Global Recognition of Violence Against People Based on Religion or Belief

NEW YORK – August 22, 2019, marked the first International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief sponsored by the United Nations. Missions Box News first became aware of the proposed special day in July 2018 when members of the British parliament were called to consider supporting a proposal for such a day before the UN General Assembly. On May 28, 2019, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming August 22nd as the annual date for the observance. When he introduced the draft for the original proposal, Jack Czaputowicz, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, noted that “one-third of the world’s population suffers from some form of religious persecution.”

Jack Czaputowicz, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, noted that “one-third of the world’s population suffers from some form of religious persecution.”

Unfortunately, the discussions surrounding the proposal were characterized by a kind of “There aren’t any flies on us” mentality. When the U.S. alleged that Christians in China were clearly suffering persecution at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese representative pushed back with reminders of how the U.S. had treated native American Indians.

China denied that its actions are persecutory by nature but are, instead, educational training to protect its citizens against terrorism. Thirty-seven other countries, including Russia, North Korea, and Pakistan defended China as a human rights defender, approving of its actions as “necessary for combatting terrorism.”

The Iranian representative decried the rise of Islamophobia, describing it as “slowly overtaking other forms of religious bigotry around the globe.” Failing to observe the extreme restrictions imposed on Christians in Islamic countries, he lamented that it was becoming “increasingly difficult to practice, look, and live as a Muslim in many countries – even some that routinely claim the high ground on human rights issues.” He underscored his point by referring to “ultranationalist” U.S. politicians who had described neo-Nazi groups as “very fine people.”

Although the introduction of this new day of remembrance certainly deserves merit, 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, called for action beyond acknowledgment.

“No one should be persecuted because of his or her faith. All people have the right to peacefully live out their faith, and we can never forget those who have faced persecution for doing so. We welcome the United Nations’ decision to create an international day commemorating victims of religious persecution.

At the same time, we are acutely aware that remembrance alone is not enough. Religious persecution is on the rise around the world. Therefore, we urge all States to ensure that their laws and policies are in line with their commitments to protect religious freedom under international law.”


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