Fiona, Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Committee, writes:
"The UN has taken a stand against acts of violence based on religion or belief–now we need to act.
Today marks the first International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. Sadly, the severe increase in such acts over recent years attests to the need to mark this annually.
In the last five years, we have seen two cases of genocide happen before our eyes. One perpetrated by Daesh against Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. The other by the Burmese military against Rohingya Muslims in Burma. In both cases, perpetrators committed mass killings, torture, abuse, rape and sexual violence, enslavement, forced deportations and much more–without being brought to justice. In both cases, the international community has acted too little and too late to deliver on the promise given again and again over the years–to never again allow such atrocities to occur.
We cannot also forget that apart from these two cases of genocide, we have over the years witnessed many other atrocities based on religion or belief. So many that we cannot turn a blind eye any more. In Nigeria’s middle belt, Christian farmers are being slaughtered by Fulani herdsmen. In northern Nigeria, Boko Haram continues to terrorise the region and kill anyone who does not agree with their perverted ideology which considers any sign of Western culture (including education) as a threat to be destroyed. In China, close to a million (if not more) Uighur Muslims are reportedly detained in so-called “re-education camps”, stripped of their religious and ethnic identity. Falun Gong practitioners are imprisoned and many subsequently disappear without trace (adding to ever-growing allegations of the use of live forced organ removal perpetrated potentially on a mass scale). In Pakistan, religious minorities like Christians and Ahmadiyas are subjected to severe discrimination which often translates into acts of violence perpetrated with impunity. Christian and Hindu girls and women in Pakistan are abducted for forced conversion and marriage. Religious minorities suspected of blasphemy there are often mistreated by angry mobs, and even the justice system is not able to provide them with a fair trial or redress. Those of no religion can face accusations of blasphemy and with that violence and the risk of death row. In Sri Lanka, Churches were bombed last Easter and in Egypt Coptic Christian Churches are similar targets for bombings particularly at Christmas. And the list goes on.
So with the recent resolution establishing this day, the UN has taken a clear stance against the unprecedented rise of violence against religious communities, people belonging to religious minorities or those of no religion at all. Of course, this is not an ultimate solution to all the problems surrounding this issue. Indeed, there is no single quick fix to this complex challenge. However, the UN day is an opportunity for us to unite our efforts to address this issue.
What will become of this day is up to us all. It should inspire us to work together to prevent similar atrocities in the future, for example by tackling “red flags”– early warning signs. It should accelerate international endeavours to hold perpetrators to account and bring them to justice. It should help promote the provision of more meaningful help for victims and survivors. And it should encourage us all to defend the right to freedom of religion or belief, wherever and however it is challenged in the world today."