Right to freedom of religion or belief is firmly entrenched in international human rights law,says Guterres

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UNITED NATIONS, Aug 22: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of a rise in racism since the spread of coronavirus across the world . He said the right to freedom of religion or belief is firmly entrenched in international human rights law and is a cornerstone for inclusive, prosperous and peaceful societies.

In his message released on Saturday to mark the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Violence Based on Religious Belief, Guterres called for countering this discrimination by more action to address the root causes of intolerance and discrimination by promoting inclusion and respect for diversity, as well as for the perpetrators of crimes of this nature to be held accountable.

The UN chief  has listed some of the disturbing examples of discrimination against religious minorities, such as attacks on people and religious sites, and hate crimes and atrocity crimes targeting populations because of their religion or belief.

In India, ruling BJP leaders and pro-government news channels rushed to blame Muslims for the rising number of coronavirus cases, portraying mainly the Tableegi Jamaat as a super-spreader. In recent months, Muslims have been assaulted, denied medical care and subjected to boycotts all in the name of fear of the virus.

States, he added, have the primary responsibility to protect the right to freedom of religion and belief. Initiatives set up by Guterres to support them include his Call to Action for Human Rights, a Strategy on Hate Speech and a Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites.

The International Day was created by a UN Resolution adopted in May 2019, in response to a rise of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals, which are often of a criminal nature. Launching his Strategy on Hate Speech in June 2019, Guterres said that “a groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, violent misogyny, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred” are being seen around the world, and noted that, in some places, Christian communities were also being systematically attacked.

The Strategy aims to enable the UN to respond to “the impact of hate speech on societies”, Guterres explained, by bringing individuals and groups together who have opposing views; working with traditional and social media platforms; and developing communications guidance.

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