The United Nations is failing to protect religious freedom and guard against the rise in anti-conversion laws, a damning report claims.
Several Indian states, Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan have all passed laws restricting conversion from one religion to another with the aim of promoting a national identity around one particular faith. However the laws amount to a blatant contravention of human rights, the report by ADF International says.
‘The case is clear that anti-conversion laws, as formulated in India, Nepal, Myanmar, and Bhutan, violate basic human rights and international law,’ it says. ‘These laws discourage conversion from the majority religion to a minority religion and give licence to extremists to perpetrate violence against minority religious communities under the guise of preventing forced conversions.’
Such laws are what the ‘UN is designed to combat’, the report says, adding that while some within the UN have spoken out, ‘other entities have failed to condemn them – emblematic of the UN’s overall failure to protect religious freedom’.
The report is backed by the US religious freedom ambassador Sam Brownback and the EU’s special envoy on religious freedom, Jan Figel, who will both speak at the launch in Washington DC next week.
Balakrishnan Baskaran, legal consultant to ADF International in India, said: ‘No person or group should live in fear of being killed, tortured, or oppressed because of their religious beliefs. The rise of anti-conversion laws worldwide testifies to a growing crisis in religious freedom.’
The report urges the UN to ‘begin taking seriously its responsibility to protect religious freedom’.
‘The more pressure offending countries receive, the likelier they are to change course.
‘The UN cannot fulfill its role as promoter and protector of human rights until it prioritizes religious freedom.’