Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) – in full

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

CSW is a human rights organisation specialising in freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).

Venezuela: “If we, as Christians who yearn to live in justice, look at the reality of our nation, we cannot remain silent.”

A young church leader is unwittingly caught up in a security dragnet, arrested, falsely accused and imprisoned. Another church youth leader is shot and killed when security forces open fire on peaceful protestors. In the same country, the military surrounds a cathedral where over a thousand peaceful protestors have sought refuge after fleeing tear gas and violence at the hands of security forces.

What is happening in Venezuela today shows how religious groups can become caught up in larger political movements, sometimes despite their best efforts to remain neutral and disengaged from politics.

Once religious groups find themselves in situations like these they can be forced out of their neutrality, putting them in opposition to powerful forces; this in turn can lead to violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) as the authorities crack down on what they perceive to be rebellious religious groups.

Continue reading “Venezuela: “If we, as Christians who yearn to live in justice, look at the reality of our nation, we cannot remain silent.””

‘Faithful disobedience’ in the face of a relentless crackdown: one year since China’s Revised Regulations on Religious Affairs.

Over the past year, the Chinese government has intensified its crackdown on Christians and other religious groups across China.

The mass incarceration of over one million predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, Kazakhs and members of other ethnic groups in ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang since 2017 has alarmed the international community, with the detentions receiving UN condemnation. At the same time, Christians across China are also being relentlessly targeted by the Chinese state apparatus, with countless violations ranging from the arrest and torture of religious practitioners to the forced closure of places of worship remaining a daily reality for those peacefully exercising their universal right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).

Since the revised regulations on religious affairs came into effect on 1 February 2018, reports have emerged of the removal of over 7,000 crosses in Henan province alone. Christians in Henan have also reported that unregistered churches across the province have been forcibly shuttered by authorities. Outside of Henan, in the wake of the revised regulations authorities across China continue to harass worshippers and restrict religious observance at state-approved churches by removing religious symbols from buildings, banning under-18s from religious activities, and forcing churches to install cameras and sing pro-Communist songs.

Continue reading “‘Faithful disobedience’ in the face of a relentless crackdown: one year since China’s Revised Regulations on Religious Affairs.”

Attacks on places of worship: Armed groups raise the stakes in the Central African Republic

Attacks on places of worship in the Central African Republic (CAR) are not a new phenomenon.

In March 2013, the predominantly Muslim rebel alliance, Seleka, seized power, and in the crisis that followed, there were reports of looting and attacks on worshipers in churches initially, spreading to mosques and other places of worship as the conflict assumed an increasingly religious dimension.

Even after the election of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra three years later, attacks on places of worship continue at a disturbing rate.

In the capital city Bangui, tensions flare periodically near the KM5 district. In May 2018, at least 15 people, including a clergyman, were killed and 100 injured in an attack on the Our Lady Fatima Catholic Church. On 7 February 2017, three churches were burned and a pastor killed in the same district.

Attacks such as these have taken a new and alarming turn since November 2018.

Continue reading “Attacks on places of worship: Armed groups raise the stakes in the Central African Republic”

FoRB on the Frontlines: Fighting for freedom as long as it’s necessary

The Ladies in White are a Cuban peaceful protest movement comprising the wives and other female relatives of jailed dissidents. Last year CSW interviewed their leader, Berta Soler, about her experiences, and the challenges facing Cuba:

“My activism really got started in 2003 when the government took [imprisoned] 75 men and one woman just because they defended the Declaration of Human Rights.

I and the other Ladies in White are women who are prepared, very well prepared, and aware that we are in a struggle for the freedom of political prisoners and for respect for human rights in my country. And we, the Ladies in White and I, are very conscious that in my country we need freedom and rights, especially for the men and women who are in prison just for demanding this and promoting and defending the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Continue reading “FoRB on the Frontlines: Fighting for freedom as long as it’s necessary”

FoRB on the Frontlines: It’s Time to Defend the Defender

Over the past month CSW has been speaking with HRDs across South Asia to find out what it means to be a FoRB defender in the region. Today, International Human Rights Day, we present a guest blog post by Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders.

“Human rights defenders are those community and religious leaders, journalists, activists, lawyers, trade unionists and others who take on the plight of the most marginalised in their society. These defenders of human rights represent people in the face of oppression, violence and harassment, doing what they can to hold perpetrators to account, and uphold the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR), among many other resolutions that states across the world are committed to upholding. Many of these defenders face the same intense persecution as those they seek to defend, with many facing threats and risks of violence, torture and even death on a daily basis.

That is why, this year, I joined calls to award the Nobel peace prize to the global community of human rights defenders – especially as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders on 10 December.

As the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, I believe that this declaration must be given foremost importance amongst the international community moving forward, with regards to the protection and sanctity of all human rights worldwide. Indeed, this year the recipients of the Nobel peace prize were human rights defenders Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, further proof that the work of HRDs worldwide helps to bring about lasting change, peace and reconciliation.

Continue reading “FoRB on the Frontlines: It’s Time to Defend the Defender”

FoRB on the Frontlines: An atmosphere of self-censorship

In the run-up to Human Rights Day on 10 December and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders on 9 December, CSW has been speaking with HRDs across South Asia to find out what it means to be a FoRB defender in the region.

Julfikar is a human rights defender working in Bangladesh:

“When friends, well-wishers and colleagues frequently advise me to restrict my movement and leave my country for safety elsewhere, it becomes an indescribable mental pressure. I have been facing this reality for many years now, but it has intensified over the last one year as Bangladesh heads to the national election on December 30.

I have spent 28 years as a professional journalist. During this period, I have witnessed horrific political, religious violence, and brutal terror attacks in the name of Islam. I have investigated and covered many of those traumatic events and closely observed others. There are many more to investigate, but the situation is gradually becoming more difficult for people like me. 

In my career, I have exposed violations of human rights, religious persecution, atrocities, intimidation, war crimes of 1971 and criminal activities, abuse of law, corruption, hate campaign, propaganda and fake news on the social media with ill motives.

Continue reading “FoRB on the Frontlines: An atmosphere of self-censorship”

FoRB on the Frontlines: In the face of government opposition

In the run-up to Human Rights Day on 10 December and the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders on 9 December, CSW has been speaking with HRDs across South Asia to find out what it means to be a FoRB defender in the region.

Fatima Atif is a human rights defender working in Pakistan:

“Pakistan has a population of over 210 million people, with a wide range of ethnic, religious, sectarian and tribal identities. This diversity makes Pakistan a challenging place to live, particularly for those who are in minority and have limited say and access to decision and policy-making forums.

I have worked as a human rights defender in Pakistan for 15 years. I have regularly faced bullying and online harassment for my work, as well as for being a female Hazara activist. (Editor’s Note: The Hazara are a minority community in Pakistan who adhere to the Shi’a branch of Islam).

The security situation in the country is volatile and there are multiple rival armed opposition groups fuelling armed conflict in different regions of the country. In this tug of war, only innocent citizens have been brutally killed and victimized.

Continue reading “FoRB on the Frontlines: In the face of government opposition”