Parliamentarians met in Berlin last month at the invitation of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) for a series of workshops and seminars aimed at building their capacity to defend this right. (More)
During the course of the week, Parliamentarians addressed specific freedom of religion or belief concerns in Eritrea, Pakistan, Sudan, Burma and Vietnam by sending letters signed by the parliamentarians from a wide range of countries.
Leonardo Quintao, a Senator in Brazil and a member of the IPPFoRB Steering Group said:
“We know from past experience that when parliamentarians come together to express, both in public and in private, concern about serious societal hostility and governmental transgressions against freedom of religion or belief, that we have the ability to affect positive change. I very much hope that our advocacy efforts this week will help strengthen freedom of religion or belief in these countries of concern.”
The letter states that “It is unacceptable that hundreds of Eritreans are detained in extremely harsh conditions solely for practicing their religion” and highlights the cases of Paulos Eyassu, Isaac Mogos, Negede Teklemariam, Kiflu Gebremeskel, Rev Haile Naizge and Patriarch Antonios. It goes on to say “We are also troubled by the lack of legal protections for freedom of religion or belief in Eritrea,” and urges that the new constitution should address this issue “in line with international human rights standards.”
The letter is addressed to the Chief Minister of the province of Punjab, and urges action to prevent abuse of the blasphemy law, mentioning the case of Asia Bibi, and also the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims. It concludes “As you know, Pakistan was founded out of a concern for religious minorities in British India and the white bar on Pakistan’s flag represents a commitment to minority rights in your country. We want to partner with you and other Pakistanis in helping your country fully realise this ambitious dream.”
The letter expresses concern and urges action on the government’s “continued imprisonment and persecution of religious leaders, confiscation of church buildings and harassment of the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church,” asking specifically for the immediate release of Rev Hassan Abduraheem and Rev Kuwa Shamal and the dropping of all charges against them and their co-defendants.
The parliamentarians state “Members of our network recently travelled to Myanmar on a four-day fact-finding and solidarity visit… the delegation spoke about the need to uphold international human rights standards by amending or repealing the discriminatory ‘race and religion laws’ and equally protecting all religious communities, which includes expanding rights and protections to Rohingya Muslims.”
The letter raises a range of concerns, including “individuals detained, arrested, or imprisoned due to their religious beliefs or religious freedom advocacy,” and continues “The religion law your government is drafting is an opportunity to address these concerns. mandatory, onerous registration requirements disadvantage many religious organisations, particularly those largely comprised of ethnic minorities and those who prefer to remain independent from the government. Importantly, these measures contravene Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights and other international standards.”