International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief was observed across the world August 22 in recognition of the importance of combating hate crimes, providing sufferers appropriate assistance and support, and encouraging interfaith dialogue.
A UN resolution on May 28, 2019, designated this annual observance in response to increased religious intolerance and violence with particular reference to last year’s attacks on two mosques in New Zealand and churches in Sri Lanka.
In a message marking the occasion, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres noted that although the right to freedom of religion or belief is well established in international human rights law, “we continue to witness deep-seated discrimination against religious minorities, attacks on people and religious sites, and hate crimes and atrocity crimes targeting populations because of their religion or belief. While societies have shown resilience and strength in the face of COVID-19, the pandemic has also been accompanied by a surge in stigma and racist discourse vilifying communities, spreading vile stereotypes and assigning blame.”
“Across the world, far too many are discriminated for the very essence of who they are, or for what they believe or do not believe in.”—Josep Borrel, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Josep Borrel, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, stated on behalf of the European Union: “Across the world, far too many are discriminated for the very essence of who they are, or for what they believe or do not believe in. Persecution targets those who manifest their religion or belief through worship and education, or those changing or leaving their religions or beliefs.”
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we see conspiracy theories and scapegoating of religious and belief communities, contributing to the surge of public advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. These are often early warning signs of violent attacks and other forms of human rights violations and abuses,” stated Borrel.
The August 22 commemoration prompted an appeal from the Christian Social Movement of Nigeria, an anti-Islamist organization devoted to strengthening liberal democracy. The group held a virtual webinar on the theme, “Unfolding Genocide in Nigeria,” underscoring threats that extremist groups such as Boko Haram pose to civil society.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated that although the victims of religious violence “belong to diverse religious minorities across the world, there is a disproportionate growth in hate speech and stigmatization of Muslim communities and individuals, leading to acts of violence.”
Bitter Winter, a magazine devoted to defending religious liberty and human rights in China, published a “digest of persecution in China,” detailing prolonged and systematic assaults on members of eight faiths including Christian denominations, Buddhism, Islam, Daoism and folk religions.
From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.
The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.