London, Jul 5 (PTI) The UK government on Tuesday flagged the issue of persecution of Hindus as part of wider threats posed to religious freedom in different parts of the world at the start of a two-day Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) global conference here.
In a speech at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said FoRB is a “fundamental freedom” like free speech or democracy but more than 80 per cent of the world’s population live in countries where FoRB is under threat.
As the host nation of the conference, the UK called out the “appalling persecution” of the Jewish community over centuries, China’s targeting of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, the persecution of Christians in Nigeria and the plight of minorities in Afghanistan.
“These are a handful of examples. And we know that Hindus, Humanists and many others are prosecuted and persecuted for their beliefs,” said Truss.
“Persecution ranges from exclusion and discrimination to forced conversion, destroying places of places of worship and targeted killings… Over the next two days, we will see people from across the world come together to discuss freedom of religion or belief, and the practical steps we can take to advance it,” she said.
With reference to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the senior minister accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of heinous war crimes committed by Russian troops.
“Innocent civilians are having to shelter from Russia’s indiscriminate bombardment in places of worship. Churches, synagogues, and mosques have been reduced to rubble. Religion is proving to be collateral damage from Putin’s aggression,” she said.
Opening the conference, which brings together over 600 faith, belief, government and civil society leaders from 100 countries, Prince Charles referred to the “tragic paradox” of people with strong belief disrespecting others.
“A society where difference is respected, where it is accepted that all need not think alike, will benefit from the talents of all of its members,” said the heir to the British throne.
The conference is aimed at showcasing practical actions on how to achieve FoRB for all, including developing early warning systems, building more resilient societies, tackling online harm and discrimination, strengthening human rights education, and encouraging media freedom.
The UK will also announce 200,000 pounds in new support for the protection and promotion of FoRB.
This will fund awareness campaigns, community programmes and support conflict prevention, as well as providing direct assistance to those facing discrimination based on religion or belief.
Another 300,000 pounds will be pledged to provide British legal expertise to countries where FoRB is under pressure.
“The international community shares a collective responsibility to ensure freedom of religion or belief for everyone, everywhere. Too many people around the world are denied access to this fundamental human right, persecuted, or indeed tragically killed simply because of their faith. I look forward to welcoming partners from around the world to London to help drive collective action in defending everyone’s right to freedom of religion or belief,” said Lord Tariq Ahmad, UK Foreign Office Minister.
“This is an important opportunity to share best practice and strengthen international alliances, such as the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA), which I am chairing this year. We need greater collective action to ensure the right to freedom of religion or belief is protected for everyone, everywhere,” added Fiona Bruce, UK Special Envoy for FoRB. PTI AK RUP RUP RUP RUP
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