The UN General Assembly designated 22 August as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. It stated that acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals, and the number and intensity of such incidents, which are often of a criminal nature and may have international characteristics, are increasing.
It also highlighted that “By proclaiming an International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, the General Assembly recalled that States have the primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights, including the human rights of persons belonging to religious minorities, including their right to exercise their religion or belief freely.”
Lord Alton, APPG Vice-Chair, says “The last few days have been dominated by the appalling news from Afghanistan and the ever-growing fear of what this will mean for women and girls, religious minorities and countless others. That fear is grounded in our knowledge of what they have done before – by the horrific legacy of the atrocities perpetrated by the Taliban. We need to find solutions to help all those at risk. But even while we are focused on Afghanistan, we must remember that elsewhere in the world atrocities based on religion or belief have not stopped. We just do not hear about them.
On this International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, we must remember all these victims, whether known or not, whether their stories have reached the news or not. We must remember their pain and suffering and never tire of shining a light on such horrendous atrocities.”
In recognition of this day the APPG is supporting Prisoners of Conscience, a new initiative, the beginning of a long term programme which will be launched in Parliament, to link individuals imprisoned because of their religion or belief to individual parliamentarians who will advocate on their behalf.
The first small tranche of prisoners highlighted can be seen here; it is intended that more will follow, from all faiths and none, representing the hundreds who are detained for their faith or belief across the world.
The APPG is pleased to host this important FoRB initiative on its website. APPG Chair Jim Shannon explains: “It has been my honour to be the Chair of APPG FORB and none more so than today when we are taking these steps to advocate on behalf of these prisoners that are individuals who are imprisoned specifically for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.
To encourage parliamentarians and, through this, our government to take action to speak for the voiceless and stand for the oppressed has always been my goal since my election to the House of Commons in 2010 and today is the next step in seeing Freedom of Religion and Belief becoming a priority for Members of this House.
The individual targeting that is taking place is not designed to attribute importance to one case over another but is simply doing what we can to help individuals in parallel with working on policy changes that will help the many. This APPG seeks to help in a practical and policy driven manner and I grateful to be a cog in mechanics of making religious freedom a reality.
I urge my fellow MP’s to work with us as we seek to use the position granted to us by our constituents to make a difference throughout the world and I thank you for your interest. I take seriously the call in Hebrews 13 to “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers… Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
Today we take the next step in this journey of doing what we are able to show love, help others and simply to do what is right.”