Defending freedoms of religion or belief for minorities in Asia

Today, Peter van Dalen MEP hosted a conference in the European Parliament with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) on Defending Freedoms of Religion and Belief for Minorities in Asia.

The conference audience heard detailed reports from civil society organisations regarding the state of religious pluralism in China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and India. These described how minorities in China and Vietnam are suffering restrictions through excessive government intervention aiming to control societal forces; while in India and Sri Lanka, we are witnessing a rise in religious extremism which is inspiring societal hostility and structural biases.

According to a report by Delhi based non-profit ANHAD, 43 deaths and over 600 cases of violence (194 targeting Christians and the rest Muslims) took place in India between May 26 2014 and May 26 2015. On November 4 2014 for example, Pastor Harikishan Rana and six other Christians were attacked in the town of Bhopal by a mob of 250 people, led by local Hindutva fundamentalists who demanded he close his Church. He refused, and their homes were broken into; they were stripped naked and their belongings were stolen.

A 2015 Pew Research Centre report found that India scores “Very high” in the social hostilities category facing religious minorities, and in the “High” category on government restrictions.

Five Indian states have already adopted Anti-Conversion laws which restrict the freedoms of religious minorities to share their faith. UN special rapporteur Heiner Bielefeldt critically described the “high penalty of three years imprisonment based on loosely defined terms” in the state law of Gujarat. In September an Anti-Conversion laws were also tabled in the state of Maharashtra, and at India’s National Parliament by way of a Private Members Bill.

Peter van Dalen MEP made clear his determination to ensure the EU responds to these injustices: “I will work hard to ensure that the EU pushes for these freedoms in all its external relations, including in trade negotiations. Because India is the world’s largest democracy and wields such significant influence in the region, I believe India deserves special attention at this time. As a Member of the Delegation for relations with India, I have formally requested that the European Parliament examine the state of pluralism in India. It is time that the rights of India’s religious minorities are defended.”

To follow Mr. van Dalen’s work on this issue, see the European Parliament Intergroup website www.religiousfreedom.eu.

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