May 2014 marked six years since seven adults were taken from their homes and thrown into the notorious Evin prison in Iran, “For the Bahá’ís imprisoned in Iran, freedom and human rights seem remote,” noted Nazil Ghanea in the New Statesman on 6 June.

Mr. Kenneth E. Bowers, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, told a hearing on religious freedom in the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs (HFAC) Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organization that since the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in August 2013 systematic abuses against Iran’s Bahá’í community had increased.

Since that time, a Bahá’í has been killed in a religiously motivated murder, and a Bahá’í family has been stabbed by a masked intruder in their home; there has been no progress in the investigation of either case. According to the Bahá’í International Community (BIC), two Bahá’í cemeteries have also been attacked, and, in January 2014, the number of Bahá’ís in prison in Iran reached a two-decade high of 136.

Early Day Motions tabled for new session

MPs have welcomed the new Parliamentary session with a number of Early Day Motions focusing on issues of Freedom of Religion or Belief. APPG vice chair Naomi Long has tabled two: one calls for the the preservation of the right to religious freedom or belief for Christians in the Arab world; the other focuses on the case of Meriam Ibrahim.

Jim Shannon has tabled two EDMs on the persecution of Christians in Africa, one referring to the detention of Christian convert Hassan Hussain Mohammed in Kenya; the second condemns the bomb attacks by Boko Haram against Christians in the Nigerian cities of Kanu and Jos.

Several written questions have also been put down: three from the Bishop of Coventry focus on the place of freedom of religion or belief in funds granted under the UK’s Human Rights and Democracy Programme.

Increasing Hate & Violence against Sikhs Worldwide

The Sikh Siyasat Network has issued a report highlighting a rising number of incidents of hate, violence and bias against Sikhs worldwide, including the August 2012 massacre of Sikhs by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin; the hate-motivated attack on an 80-year-old Sikh outside a Sikh temple in California; and the shooting of a Sikh in Port Orange, Florida while he was driving a car with his 13-year-old son. The research has been compiled through research, field observations, surveys, and input on Sikh issues from local residents and lawyers in countries around the world, as well as reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Burma: new threat to Religious Freedom

The Huffington Post reports that the Burmese Government is seeking public approval for a religious conversion bill that has been put forward by Buddhist monks which would require anyone wishing to change their faith to gain approval from local authorities beforehand. The article states that the Bill was published in state-run newspapers and aims to protect the right to religious freedom or belief by preventing people from being pressurised into changing religions. Under the Bill, anyone who forces another to convert will be jailed for at least a year.

On 12 June, following the Burmese government’s invitation for public opinion on a proposed Religious Conversion Law, 81 organisations from Burma and elsewhere recommended that it be completely discarded. More

Christians under Threat in Middle East

Syria’s Melkite Greek Patriarch of Antioch, Gregory III, has said that over a thousand Christians have been killed in the Syrian conflict since it erupted three years ago, and 24 villages cleared of all their Christian inhabitants. He insisted that the church has a key role to play in reconciliation, but also suggested that the threat to the Christian presence in the Middle East was such that the Middle East could soon be devoid of Christians.