New York City, N.Y., Jun 4, 2019 / 12:29 pm (CNA).- The United Nations General Assembly last week adopted a resolution proclaiming Aug. 22 as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.
The May 28 resolution was introduced by Jacek Czaputowicz, Poland’s foreign minister.
“Any acts of violence against people belonging to religious minorities cannot be accepted,” Czaputowicz stated. “We hope that it will help combat hate crimes and acts of violence related to religion or belief, and will further strengthen interreligious dialogue.”
The Polish foreign minister noted the increase in violence on the basis of religion around the world, referring in particular to the recent attacks on a mosque in New Zealand and churches in Sri Lanka.
Alongside Poland, the draft resolution was co-sponsored by Brazil, Canada, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the US.
According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the majority of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom are found in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. The commission’s most recent report focused in its introduction on abuses against China’s Uyghur Muslims.
The US representative to the UN, Austin Smith, noted ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Burma and Yazidis in Iraq, and said that “countries must work across borders to advocate for the rights of members of religious minority communities, and to protect freedom of religion or belief wherever it is threatened.”
Smith focused particularly on China’s arbitrary detention of more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in “re-education camps”, where they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination,” which he called “one of the world’s most horrific denials of freedom of religion or belief.”
“Chinese authorities are restricting religious freedom by labeling peaceful religious practices as manifestations of ‘religious extremism and terrorism,” he said. “We call upon all member states to speak out against the egregious human rights abuses and religious persecution by the People’s Republic of China … The Chinese Communist Party has exhibited extreme hostility to all religious faiths since its founding. This repression has intensified under the current policy of ‘Sinicizing’ religion.”
Smith added: “We call on member states to press the Chinese government to close its camps and respect the rights of Muslims in Xinjiang, as well as the rights of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners.”
China’s representative responded that Smith’s statements were an unfounded accusation, and reiterated China’s position that it is combatting extremism. He called the camps for Uyghurs learning centers, and stressed their vocational and educational nature.