Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief
Some 70.8 million people were displaced worldwide as of 2018. Of these, an estimated 13.6 million people were newly displaced that year due to conflict or persecution on the basis of their ethnicity, their exercise of conscience, or because of their religion or belief.
Today’s news is filled with shocking accounts from various countries about the situation of the Ahmadiyya Muslims, Baha’is, Christians, Hindus and other religious minorities. Many of these individuals face harrowing circumstances in their home countries simply for claiming their religious identity, exercising or manifesting their faith. This includes serious threats to life, liberty and physical integrity, leading them no choice but to flee their homes, towns, or countries, with or without their families, to countries where they think they could seek protection. By the end of 2018, about 25.9 million people were refugees, and another 2.8 million applied for asylum in foreign countries by the end of that year.
These journeys, which all begin with the dreams for a better future, can also be full of danger and fear. Some people risk falling prey to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Some are detained by the authorities as soon as they arrive in a new country. Others may face years of frustration and be subject to abject poverty and fear as they await decisions on their fate by authorities that may be suspicious of their claims, lack a substantive understanding of what constitutes the right to freedom of religion or belief, be uninformed about the situation of religious freedom in the country from which they fled, or may hold personal convictions or prejudices of their own. Moreover, once in their new country these victims can also find themselves strangers in anew land troubled by familiar aspects of their persecution, including daily racism, xenophobia and discrimination. Hence, these victims of religious persecution are trapped in a vicious cycle of unfair treatment simply for laying claim to their identities.
I read with much concern, the Report that reflects on the findings emanating from the 13-18 May 2019 fact-finding mission carried out by the International Human Rights Committee (IHRC) working in collaboration with the Centre for Asylum Protection, Forum for Religious Freedom – Europe (FOREF), Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Asian Resource Centre, and CAP Freedom of Conscience.