November 29, 2013
Nine UNPO Members attended the Forum where they discussed the religious challenges facing minorities worldwide.
More than 20 representatives of nine Members (Uyghurs, Sindh, Khmer Krom, Ahwazi, Assyria, Chin, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Tibet and Ogaden) attended the sixth Session of the Forum on Minority Issues held in Geneva, Switzerland, on 26 and 27 November 2013. This year’s forum was entitled “Beyond freedom of religion or belief: Guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities."
The Independent Expert on Minority Issues Ms. Rita Izsák, hosted a side event entitled “How Can You Fight Hate and Intolerance: watch a movie, discuss, act.” The side event featured two short films on how to fight hate and intolerance through community action followed by a panel discussion. Interested parties were invited to share their thoughts about the films and how their message can be appropriated to their own situations.
Opening day of the forum
The Forum was opened with a statement of the President of the Human Rights Council, followed by statements from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Chairperson of the Forum on Minority Issues and the Independent Expert on Minority Issues Ms. Rita Izsák. The discussions of the day focused on the existing international and regional standards and principles relating to the religious rights of religious minorities. The participants discussed how the international standards regarding the protection of the rights of religious minorities are implemented in national policies.
During lunch time, Minority Rights Group International and the Permanent Mission of Austria co-hosted a discussion entitled “Three Years after the Uprisings: Religious Minorities in the Middle East.” Speakers included Independent Expert Rita Izsák and Mark Lattimer from Minority Rights Group International. The side event provided religious minorities with another opportunity to present the challenges they face.
The afternoon session focused on the protection of the existence of and prevention of violence against religious minorities. Following the statements of keynote speakers, Members took to the floor to explain the challenges they are faced with as religious minorities. Many UNPO Members decided to speak under this agenda item, including the World Uyghur Congress. During their statement made by Mr. Alim Seytoff, the People’s Republic of China raised two points of order requesting that the WUC not be allowed to finish their intervention, drawing support from Pakistan, Venezuela, Cuba, and the Russian Federation. However, the USA, the UK, Switzerland and France spoke in support of NGO’s to take to the floor without interruption. The WUC statement was followed by the one from UNPO, which also drew criticism from China.
Second day of the forum
The morning session of the second day of the forum focused on the promotion and protection of the identity of religious minorities. Once again it gave the participants an opportunity to present the challenges they are faced with. This session looked into opportunities to ensure the protection of minorities. During lunch time there was a side event entitled “Gender Justice and Religion: Women as Agents of Positive Change”, amongst other topics, the panel discussed gender justice from a human rights and religious freedom’s perspective. The afternoon session focused on the promotion of constructive interfaith dialogue, consultation and exchange. The final session sought to identify measures for promoting tolerant and inclusive multi faith societies. The Chairperson of the Forum and the Independent Expert on minority issues shared their concluding remarks.
All the Members' statements are available for download from the right column.