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FRANCE: French Evangelicals ask UN to help against secularist state

FRANCE: French Evangelicals ask UN to help against secularist state

The French Evangelicals ask the United Nations to help the French state speak respectfully about beliefs and stop “fuelling anti-religious sentiment, prejudice or stigmatisation of believers.”

CNE News (12.04.2023) – That is clear from a letter sent by the National Council of French Evangelicals (CNEF) to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The High Commissioner will come to France on May 1st for the periodic review of the country’s compliance with international rights conventions. In that context, NGOs can send reports to the UN Commissioner to ask for attention to problems.

Together with the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) and the European Baptist Federation (EBF), CNEF has produced a report with recommendations.


The French Protestants refer to the change in the law in mid-2021, reinforcing respect for the “Republic”. In an earlier report from last October, the organisation wrote about a “shift toward a ‘secular surveillance’ of worship.”

In a sheet with recommendations from this month, the four organisations warn that “new legislation on worship should not be restrictive or constraining”. The Evangelicals see places of worship as “imperative needs of the population” that should be free to open also during a pandemic or security crisis.

Instead of speaking negatively about religion, state representatives should “promote the understanding of religious freedom in France by improving the teaching of the religious phenomenon within the national education”.

In follow-up, the authorities should ensure everyone has freedom of expression, including the propagation of religious beliefs. That is part of the “pluralism of beliefs and opinions” in modern society.

At the end of the report, the Evangelicals ask for a “general conscientious objection” for caregivers, particularly concerning abortion and euthanasia.


Since 1905, France has been a secular country. That means that the influence of the (Catholic) church was no longer part of the political establishment. During the decades after that, church people have complained regularly that the state took this so seriously that it actually meant that the state tried to wipe the church out of society at all.

In 1905, the Protestants were happy since they enjoyed more space because of the secularisation. But now, they also detect an “anti-religious sentiment”, as they wrote last October.

Photo: The Evangelicals in France ask the UN to help to create a respectful environment for religion in their country. Photo Facebook CNEF

Further reading about FORB in France on HRWF website

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INDIA: Serious concerns raised at UN human rights review

Serious concerns raised at UN rights review

Member States seek protection of minority rights, free speech, peaceful assembly

Human Rights Watch (18.11.2022) – https://bit.ly/3Ost80S – The Indian government should promptly adopt and act on the recommendations that United Nations member states made at the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process on November 10, 2022, six international human rights groups said today. The recommendations cover a range of key concerns including the protection of minority communities and vulnerable groups, tackling gender-based violence, upholding civil society freedoms, protecting human rights defenders, and ending torture in custody.


The groups are the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), CSW, International Dalit Solidarity Network, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.


All UN member states participate in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, which examines their human rights record and proposes action to improve the human rights situations in their countries. In its report submitted to the UN ahead of its review, the Indian government claimed “it is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights.” However, in the past UPR cycles, India has ignored important recommendations, including to address increasing violence against religious minorities, ensure accountability of its security forces, and protect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.


During the periodic review, India’s fourth, 130 member states made 339 recommendations highlighting some of the most urgent human rights concerns in the country.


Since its last review in 2017, India has undergone a serious regression in human rights under the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government has escalated its crackdown on independent and democratic institutions, and is using draconian counterterrorism and national security laws to prosecute and harass human rights activists, journalists, students, government critics, and peaceful protesters. Attacks, discrimination, and incitement against religious minorities are increasing. The traditionally marginalized Dalit and Adivasi communities have been denied justice and equitable protection.


At least 21 countries urged India to improve its protection of freedom of religion and rights of religious minorities, with several raising concerns over increasing violence and hate speech and the government’s adoption of discriminatory policies such as “anti-conversion” laws.


Since Modi’s BJP came to power in 2014, it has taken various legislative and other actions that have made it lawful to discriminate against religious minorities, particularly Muslims, and enabled violent Hindu majoritarianism, the groups said.


The government passed a citizenship law in December 2019 that discriminates against Muslims, for the first time making religion the basis for citizenship. In August 2019, the government revoked the constitutional autonomy granted to the only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, and continues to restrict free expression, peaceful assembly, and other basic rights in the region. Since October 2018, Indian authorities have deported at least 13 Rohingya Muslim refugees to Myanmar despite the risks to their lives and security.


Indian states have used laws against cow slaughter to prosecute Muslim cattle traders even as BJP-affiliated groups attack Muslims and Dalits on rumors that they killed or traded cows for beef. At least 10 Indian states forbid forced religious conversion, but they misuse the laws to target Christians. States also enforce these laws to harass and arrest Muslim men in relationships with Hindu women. Throughout 2022, authorities in several BJP-ruled states demolished Muslim homes and properties without legal authorization or due process, either as summary or collective punishment, holding them responsible for the violence during the communal clashes.


Twenty countries said that India should improve protection of freedom of expression and assembly, and create an enabling environment for civil society groups, human rights defenders, and media to do their work. Some of these countries expressed concerns over the use of the counterterrorism law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), against activists, journalists, and members of religious minority communities. Over the years, rights groups and several UN human rights experts have raised concerns over the use of this law, which is widely criticized for failing to conform to international human rights standards, to detain activists and others for exercising their basic rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.


A number of countries raised concerns over the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), the law used to regulate foreign funding for nongovernmental organizations, and asked the government to review or amend the law to bring it line with international human rights standards.


The Indian authorities have used the law to shut down foreign funding for thousands of civil society groups, particularly those that work on human rights or the rights of vulnerable communities. Several UN bodies have warned that the law is being used to silence dissent. In October 2020, then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that the act is “indeed actually being used to deter or punish NGOs for human rights reporting and advocacy that the authorities perceive as critical in nature.”

Nineteen countries said that India should ratify the UN Convention against Torture, a treaty it signed in 1997 but never ratified. India said in both 2012 and 2017 UPR cycles that it remained committed to ratifying the treaty. But it hasn’t taken steps to fulfill its commitment even as torture and other ill-treatment continue to be used routinely by police and other security forces to gather information or coerce confessions.


Countries also urged India to address caste-based discrimination; strengthen efforts aimed at alleviating poverty, improving access to health care, safe drinking water, and sanitation, and providing access to free and quality education for all children; ensure a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment; and strengthen protections for children, women, and persons with disabilities.


The Indian government has said that the “UPR is an important mechanism that India fully supports” and “as the world’s largest democracy, India is committed to the highest standards of human rights.”


The Indian government needs to follow up on the concerns raised by other member states at the UPR, which are shared widely by rights groups and several UN bodies, and take immediate steps to correct course and protect the rights and dignity of all people, the groups said.


Photo: Delegates attend the opening day of the 50th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, in Geneva, June 13, 2022. © 2022 Keystone/Valentin Flauraud

Further reading about FORB in India on HRWF website

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INDONESIA : Religious freedom issues raised at the UN in Geneva

Religious freedom issues raised at the UN in Geneva

HRWF (15.11.2022) – On 9 November, Indonesia’s human rights report was reviewed in the framework of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva. The issue of religious freedom was particularly raised by Christian Solidarity Worldwide in a submission filed ahead of the UPR process. Here is an excerpt of it:

Rising religious intolerance

23. While Indonesia’s tradition of religious pluralism does have limitations which should be addressed, including the lack of protection for adherents of religions outside the six religions recognised by the constitution and for those of other beliefs, it was designed to protect pluralism in a Muslim-majority nation.

24. Rising religious intolerance, however, threatens to destroy these achievements and poses a threat not only to the country’s religious minorities, but to all Indonesians who value democracy, human rights, peace and stability.

25. There has also been a decline in state-sponsored violations of FoRB. However, there continues to be growing religious intolerance in society, as evidenced by the instrumentalization of religion in the 2019 elections.

Attacks on religious minorities

26. Incidents of violence against religious minorities, particularly Christians, Ahmadiyyas, Shi’as and adherents of religions or beliefs not recognised by the state, including indigenous traditional beliefs, continue periodically within a climate of impunity.

27. In September 2020, UCA News reported that Reverend Yeremia Zanambani, a Protestant pastor and Bible translator, had been shot dead in Indonesia’s restive Papua region.4 There was some dispute over whether he had been killed by the Indonesian military or by members of a local separatist group, however in October 2020 Indonesia’s human rights commission (Komnas HAM) reported that a fact- finding team believed Pastor Zanambani had been tortured and killed by the military, who were hoping to extract information on stolen military weapons.5

28. On 30 November 2020, IS-linked Islamic militants carried out an attack on a Salvation Army outpost in Lemban Tongoa village in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province. Four people were killed, one of whom was beheaded, and several homes were burnt down, including a house used for prayers.

Attacks on places of worship

29. Various places of worship have been attacked during the reporting period, including Christian churches, Ahmadiyya mosques and Buddhist temples.

30. One of the darkest days for religious minorities in the country occurred on 13 May 2018 when three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, were attacked within minutes of each other by a family of suicide bombers. Three individuals received prison sentences for their suspected involvement in the bombing in March 2019.

31. On Palm Sunday, 28 March 2021, suicide bombers attacked a Catholic Church in Makassar, South Sulawesi, leaving at least 14 people injured. 6

32. In March 2020, 15 Indonesians filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court arguing that the closure of thousands of places of worship was being done under a discriminatory law, the 2006 Religious Harmony regulation.7

Ahmadiyya Muslim community

33. The Ahmadiyya Muslim community has existed in Indonesia since 1925, and claims a population of approximately 500,000 across 330 branches throughout the country. The Ahmadiyya consider themselves to be Muslims but are regarded by some other Muslims as heretical.

34. Since 2005, the community has experienced serious violations of FoRB, including incidents of violence. A Joint Ministerial Decree introduced in 2008 by the Minister of Religious Affairs, the Attorney General and the Minister of Home Affairs prohibited promulgation of Ahmadiyya teachings. In 2011, the then Minister of Religious Affairs repeatedly called for an outright ban on the Ahmadiyya, and in 2013 the governor of West Java said that there would be no violence against the Ahmadiyya if there were no Ahmadiyya teachings or practices, describing Ahmadiyya Islam as “a deviant belief.” The “problem,” he added, “will disappear if the belief disappears.”

35. Although there has been, according to Ahmadi representatives, “some improvement” under the government of President Joko Widodo, intimidation of the Ahmadiyya continues and Ahmadiyya activities continue to be restricted to date.

36. On 14 January 2022, UCA News reported that a district chief in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province ordered the demolition of an Ahmadi mosque that had been damaged in a September 2021 attack by Muslim extremists.8 The order was issued days after the perpetrators of the attack were jailed for four months.



4 UCANews, ‘Protestant Pastor shot dead in Indonesia, 21 September 2020 https://www.ucanews.com/news/protestant-pastor- shot-dead-in-indonesia/89597
5 CNN Indonesia, ‘Investigasi Tim Kemanusiaan: Pendeta Yeremia Ditembak TNI’, 30 October 2020 https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20201029125036-20-563926/investigasi-tim-kemanusiaan-pendeta-yeremia- ditembak-tni

6 BBC, ‘Indonesia bombing: Worshippers wounded in Makassar church attack‘, 28 March 2021, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-56553790

7 Twitter, tweet by Andreas Harsono, 5 March 2020, https://twitter.com/andreasharsono/status/1235707989459337216 8 UCANews, ‘Indonesian district to demolish Ahmadi house of worship’, 14 January 2022 https://www.ucanews.com/news/indonesian-district-to-demolish-ahmadi-house-of-worship/95731

Further reading about FORB in Indonesia on HRWF website

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