On March 19, 2021, I was able to present an oral intervention during the General debate under agenda Item: 8 – follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action during the 46th Regular Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was the reaffirmation of the World Conference on Human Rights, which stated:
The solemn commitment of all States to fulfil their obligations to promote universal respect for, and observance and protection of, all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, other instruments relating to human rights, and international law. The universal nature of these rights and freedoms is beyond question.
In this framework, enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights is essential for the full achievement of the purposes of the United Nations.
Human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings; their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of Governments.
I was able to remind the Council of this commitment as I pointed out that religious persecution is one of the most egregious attacks against human rights, and that Christianity remains the most persecuted religion in the world.
My statement further addressed the ongoing and increasing religious freedom violations occurring in India, which has been ranked as the number ten offender of countries targeting the Christian faith and those who follow Jesus:
This ranking of India in the top ten is primarily a consequence of growing Hindu nationalism, which has resulted in a significant increase in the persecution of Christians in India.
Clearly, through the denial of official COVID-19 aid, and the blind eye that officials often turn to religiously motivated violence against Christians, the government in India is complicit in and even the perpetrator of religiously motivated discrimination.
I was also able to address the recent persecution of our client, Pastor Bryan Nerren, to further highlight the Indian government’s direct targeting and attacks against Christians:
This claim can further be supported by the recent wrongful targeting, arrest, and detention for over seven months of our client, Pastor Bryan Nerren.
During this time, one customs official made it quite clear that Pastor Nerren was targeted because of his Christian faith, stating that they had been ordered by the central government to crush Christianity and they were going to do just that.
It was only after months of concerted diplomatic efforts that justice was finally able to prevail and Pastor Nerren allowed to return home. Pastor Nerren was lucky, but we cannot forget the remaining Christians in India and all over the world who are facing persecution daily, simply because of their faith.
In our previously submitted written statement, we also highlighted the increasing number of anti-conversion laws being passed in India’s states, as well as detailing violence and persecution against Christians at the hands of civil actors. For instance:
[I]n January 2021, a mob of 20-25 men, including one man wielding an axe, attacked “[s]ix Christian families [who] were worshipping in a wood-and-hay structure in eastern India”. According to the report, the mob “manhandled the Christians, damaged [an adjacent] Christian home, and broke the thatched structure with the axe”. Furthermore, “[t]hey threatened to chase them out of their homes and the village if they reported the matter to the police”.
These kinds of attacks and government involvement in persecution are simply unacceptable. As I stated in my conclusion, the world needs to “denounce religious persecution” and “make it a priority to protect the right to practice one’s faith freely.” We will continue to speak out against religiously motivated violence in India, and around the world, and we will continue to urge world leaders to do the same.
The U.N. Human Rights Council has now concluded its 46th regular session. But during the session, the ACLJ, through our affiliate office, the European Centre for Law and Justice (“ECLJ”), was able to present five oral interventions before the Council. While the ability to present oral statements is quite restricted and speaking slots hard to obtain, the ACLJ was able to provide multiple statements, addressing religious persecution and other human rights violations occurring around the world – and with your continued support, we will continue to do so!
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