People's Stories Freedom

Denounce all instances of advocacy of hatred that incites to violence, discrimination or hostility
by OHCHR, Global Voices
Sri Lanka
Faith for Rights (UN Office for Human Rights)
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has launched an initiative on “Faith for Rights” with an expert workshop held in Beirut. The initiative provides space for a cross-disciplinary reflection on the deep, and mutually enriching, connections between religions and human rights. The objective is to foster the development of peaceful societies, which uphold human dignity and equality for all and where diversity is not just tolerated but fully respected and celebrated.
The High Commissioner highlighted that religious leaders are potentially very important human rights actors in view of their considerable influence on the hearts and minds of millions of people. The 2012 Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence already laid out some of religious leaders’ core responsibilities against incitement to hatred.
Expanding those responsibilities to the full spectrum of human rights, the faith-based and civil society actors participating at the OHCHR workshop in March 2017 adopted the Beirut Declaration and its 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”.
Beirut Declaration
The Beirut Declaration considers that all believers – whether theistic, non-theistic, atheistic or other – should join hands and hearts in articulating ways in which “Faith” can stand up for “Rights” more effectively so that both enhance each other. Individual and communal expression of religions or beliefs thrive and flourish in environments where human rights are protected. Similarly, human rights can benefit from deeply rooted ethical and spiritual foundations provided by religions or beliefs.
Rather than focusing on theological and doctrinal divides, the Beirut Declaration favours the identification of common ground among all religions and beliefs to uphold the dignity and equal worth of all human beings.
The Beirut Declaration reaches out to persons belonging to religions and beliefs in all regions of the world, with a view to enhancing cohesive, peaceful and respectful societies on the basis of a common action-oriented platform which is open to all actors that share its objectives.
Linked to the Beirut Declaration are 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”, with corresponding follow-up actions. These include the commitments:
To prevent the use of the notion of “State religion” to discriminate against any individual or group; to revisit religious interpretations that appear to perpetuate gender inequality and harmful stereotypes or even condone gender-based violence.
To stand up for the rights of all persons belonging to minorities. To publicly denounce all instances of advocacy of hatred that incites to violence, discrimination or hostility. To monitor interpretations, determinations or other religious views that manifestly conflict with universal human rights norms and standards.
To refrain from oppressing critical voices and to urge States to repeal any existing anti-blasphemy or anti-apostasy laws. To refine the curriculums, teaching materials and textbooks; and to engage with children and youth who are either victims of or vulnerable to incitement to violence in the name of religion.
* Access the 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights” via the link below.
Sep 2017
This is not what the Buddha taught. We have to show compassion, by Rezwan. (Global Voices)
On Tuesday, September 26, a violent mob led by a group of radical Buddhist monks broke down gates and entered the walled multi-storied United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) safe house for Rohingya refugees in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, sparking widespread condemnation in Sri Lanka.
The monks allegedly threatened a group of 31 Rohingya refugees including 16 children and 7 women, calling them terrorists. Authorities quickly escorted the refugees into protective custody and relocated them to a safer place.
Sri Lanka has mostly stayed silent regarding the recent Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. Only a few days ago Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced the country will not accept any Rohingyas as refugees and existing refugees will eventually be resettled in a different country.
Only a few hundred Rohingya refugees currently stay in Sri Lanka and the majority came to Sri Lanka by boat and air following the disturbances in Myanmar in 2012. Others were rescued by the Sri Lankan navy last May from Sri Lanka''s northern shores and kept in a UN safe house in Mount Lavinia until their resettlement.
According to international reports, the hardline nationalist group Sinhale Jathika Balamuluwa showed the attack live on their Facebook page with over 30,000 followers. The video showed the monks and a few civilians entering the safe house chanting “do not allow terrorists into this country.”
Several others uploaded footage of the Buddhist monk-led attack against Rohingya refugees on Youtube by users such as
''All the refugees escaped the attack without injury, but two police officers were wounded and admitted to hospital''.
The government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya people among the country’s ethnic groups and denies them citizenship. They are often described as the “most persecuted minority group in Asia.”
Authorities and Buddhist nationalists consider Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though they have roots in the Rakhine state that go back centuries.
Since August 2017, some 500,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh after Myanmar''s military crackdown on insurgents belonging to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). ARSA was accused of attacking several police and military outposts which then led to the burning of Rohingya villages and attacks on civilians.
Some Sri Lankan Buddhist monks share similar extremist views with their ultra-nationalist counterparts in Myanmar when it comes to minority Muslims and created a Facebook page to express those views. Sri Lankans also offered sympathy to Myanmar on the Rohingya issue.
However, the attacks were strongly condemned by the Sri Lankan government. Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said:
“This is not what the Buddha taught. We have to show compassion to these refugees. These monks who carried out the attacks are actually not monks, but animals.”
And via a tweet by Azzam Ameen, the minister also lamented:
"2 million Sri Lankan''s went to other countries as refugees, ashamed that we can''t even look after 30 people temporarily" Minister Rajitha
The minister committed to taking disciplinary action against officers who failed to control the mob. Other government officials expressed condemnation but the President and Prime Minister have yet to issue a statement. Ordinary citizens also denounced the attacks on social media.
Veteran Sri Lankan journalist Latheef Farook condemned Sri Lanka''s silence on the ongoing persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar:
''Sri Lanka and its Foreign Ministry had never failed to promptly condemn explosions and bombings in far-away Western capitals but terrorizing a half million men, women and children into fleeing their generational places of birth, closer home in our Asian neighborhood, has not struck the conscience in Sri Lanka''.
Sam Kosai, of Yangon, Myanmar expressed his frustration with the irony of a violent Buddhist attack against Rohingya refugees in Sri Lanka:
''Our brothers in Sri Lanka joined Burma to give Buddhism shame and a bad name''.

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Teenage couple electrocuted in Pakistan in ''honour killing''
by Zofeen Ebrahim
Reuters, agencies
Sept. 2017
A Pakistani teenage couple who tried to elope were murdered with electric shocks in an "honour killing" by family members who were carrying out the orders of an influential tribal council, police said.
The teenagers in the port city of Karachi were said by the Pashtun council of elders, or jirga, to have brought dishonour on the community.
"The innocent souls were tied to a charpai (rope bed) and given electric shocks," said Aman Marwat, the police officer who arrested the two fathers and two uncles and is pursuing some 30 members of the jirga who have gone into hiding.
The 15-year-old girl had allegedly run away with her 17-year-old boyfriend last month, Marwat said.
"The girl was killed and buried first followed by the murder of the boy the next day," he added.
More than 1100 people -- almost all women -- die in Pakistan each year in such killings, usually carried out by members of the victim''s family meting out punishment for bringing "shame" on the community.
Marwat, who has been in the police for 25 years, said he has dealt with many honour killing cases happening in Karachi.
"It indicates a tribalisation of society where jirgas exercise more power than law enforcers," said Zohra Yusuf, a human rights activist in Pakistan.
Jirgas are often convened, particularly in conservative rural areas, to settle local disputes especially between poor families, and although they operate outside the law, their decisions are often honoured and ignored by authorities.
In this case, the two families had come to an agreement for the pair to get married, together with a financial settlement to be paid to the girl''s family, according to Kamal Shah, of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, a non-governmental organisation that works in the area.
"The girl''s side had agreed but not the jirga and they warned that if the two families did not carry out the barbaric deed, their family in their village back home would have to bear the consequences," said Zia Ur Rehman, a Pakistani journalist who first reported on the case.
The case highlights the influence of tribal councils and social pressures in Pakistan, which are often more powerful than the law.
"Laws seem useless," said Maliha Zia Lari, associate director with Karachi-based Legal Aid Society. "The boy''s father did not think he could seek protection from the state and the jirga members did not fear any reprisals from it either."

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