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Faith groups are victims of Covid-19 backlash, says parliamentary group

05 March 2021


PUBLIC reaction to the coronavirus pandemic has caused a worldwide backlash against religious groups, a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief suggests.

In their foreword to the report, three leading academics say that religion and belief communities have been blamed for the virus, scapegoated for the outbreaks, blamed as irresponsible “super-spreaders”, and accused of being resistant to the implementation of public-health measures, of peddling “phoney” remedies, and opposing vaccinations.

The authors of the foreword — Sir Malcolm Evans, Professor of Public International Law at the University of Bristol; Dr Nazila Ghanea, an associate professor in international human-rights law at Oxford; and Dr Ahmed Shaheed, a senior law lecturer at Essex University and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief — call on the reorganised Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to make the issue “a priority concern” in its human-rights agenda. They also urge the department to ensure that it is actively recognised as a key part of pandemic responses.

They suggest that, at a time of reorganisation and serious budget cuts, the department take “every care to maximise the potential opportunities of its reorganisation by mainstreaming FoRB [Freedom of Religion or Belief] considerations into its new processes at every level”.

The report includes 24 profiles of countries with significant FoRB violations. The foreword continues: “Whilst freedom of conscience must of course be respected, many of these attacks, which have made some religion or belief groups the target of conspiracy theories and of hate speech, have amounted to little more than self-serving attempts to deflect attention from the failure of the authorities in relation to these matters.”

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