There is an urgent need to enhance global efforts to protect the rights of religious minorities. In many places, religious minorities including Christian, Jewish, Shia, Sunni, Yezidi, Ahmedi, and Baha'i communities face discrimination and violence.
It is not, however, just governments that are to blame. "Non-state attacks against members of religious communities are also an urgent challenge," said Acting U.S. Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Arsalan Suleman. He noted that in April, "we were appalled by the murders of Christians in Libya and Kenya by terrorist groups."
Mr. Suleman made his remarks at the Fifth meeting of the Istanbul Process for Promoting Implementation of UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 on combatting Religious Intolerance, Discrimination, and Violence.
Resolution 16/18 is an important means of combatting this violence, and governments should fully implement it. This resolution explicitly defines the shared values and commitments that serve as the foundation and guiding principles for combatting and overcoming religious intolerance. The resolution acknowledges that there is no justification for violence in response to peaceful expression.
It calls on governments to foster religious freedom and pluralism, to protect places of worship, to enforce anti-discrimination laws, to engage with members of religious communities, and to promote conflict resolution. It also encourages leaders in government and civil society to speak out against religious intolerance and to form collaborative networks to address these challenges.
The international community must reaffirm its core values and strengthen political and civil rights protections for members of religious and ethnic minority groups. Freedom of expression and freedom of religion, are fundamental human rights that must be promoted and enforced by all governments.