Another terrorist attack reminds us of the Taliban’s failure to protect Afghan citizens

This piece was originally published on 14 October 2022 in Sight Magazine.

This time last year saw two shocking attacks on Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim community. First, on 8 October 2021, a suicide bomber affiliated with the Islamic State – Khorasan Province targeted a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz with an attack timed to coincide with Friday prayers which claimed at least 50 lives and injured 100 others. Some estimates placed the death toll as high as 100.

Then, exactly one week later, terrorists bombed another Shia mosque, again timed to coincide with Friday prayers, in the southern city of Kandahar. Estimates of those killed range between 47 and 65, while at least 80 others were said to have been injured.

CSW wrote at the time that the attacks “raised questions about the Taliban’s ability to offer security to citizens of Afghanistan, which they had presented as a key benefit of their rule.” And then, last month, with the anniversaries of both attacks on the horizon, the Shia community was targeted once again.

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On freedom of religion or belief, the UK government needs to turn its rhetoric to reality

“The fact is that we simply can’t afford to be religiously illiterate in today’s world. To be religiously illiterate in today’s world is simply to fail to understand how and why others act as they do.” – These are the words of Bishop Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro, speaking at the deferred 175th anniversary celebration of The National Club earlier this month.

Bishop Mounstephen has been a friend of mine, and of CSW, for a number of years now, so it will come as little surprise that we fully support his assertion. As the bishop outlined so eloquently in his speech, freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), cannot be seen as a “side-bar” or “special interest” issue. In fact, it is a fundamental human right, the abuse of which so often leads to wider human rights violations as it intersects with issues such as poverty, race and gender.

Fortunately, the UK government appears to agree. Last year, upon the appointment of Fiona Bruce MP as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for FoRB, Boris Johnson said: “The UK is absolutely committed to protecting the inalienable right to freedom of religion and belief, at home and around the world.”

Continue reading “On freedom of religion or belief, the UK government needs to turn its rhetoric to reality”