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Urgent call to protect freedom of religion - Civil Society rallies to end coercive conversion and abuses by religious institutions globally

by Agencies
06 Feb 2019 at 09:40hrs | Views
Zimbabwe joined the world in rallying against the abuse of religious freedom by religious institutions. The event held at the Town House in Harare comes in the wake of the United Nations World Interfaith Week that takes place from the 1-7th of February promoting peace and tolerance among religions.
 
The rally led by the Global Citizens' Human Rights Coalition (the Coalition) included human rights organisations, religious leaders, youth and women organisations in Southern Africa urgently calling citizens to rally for the protection of freedom of religion and the abuses by religious institutions globally.
The rally held regionally between the 2nd and 3rd of February in South Africa and Namibia was a response to an increasing number of religious institutions that continue to violate peoples' right to freedom of religion through the practice of coercive conversion, leading to death.
 
"In 2018 alone, the number of coercive conversion victims reached 147, with many others unaccounted for. At 27, a young girl lost her life after resisting those continuously perpetrating her", said the rally's host and member of the Global Citizens' Human Rights Coalition in Zimbabwe Takunda Chipara.
 
In Zimbabwe, religious freedom is celebrated, and has continued to show its support for religious freedom nationally and globally.  

Internationally civil society organisations are calling for the government to intervene and close down religious institutions abusing individuals' rights to practice their religion of choice freely. The Global Citizens' Human Rights (the Coalition) comprises of 100 organisations in South-Korea including the International Women's Peace Human Rights Commission, the Christian Association for Anti-Corruption National Movement, and the World Buddhist Summit, amongst others. It was established to expose the practice of coercive conversion and call for the shutdown of the Christian Council of Korea (CCK) in South Korea after the recent death of Ji In Gu, who was murdered for her faith.  On the 27 January 2019 they hosted a rally in Seoul where 30 000 people gathered to promote this cause.
 
Perpetrators of these forced conversions approach the families of individuals belonging to churches not associated with the CCK and convince them to participate in the process, intended to impose the organisation's doctrine on the person. These conversions often include violence and intimidation.

In a country that is dominantly Christian, religious leaders noted with concern that such acts of coercive conversion must not be tolerated in Zimbabwe. One of the religious leaders noted with sadness on the abuse of these religious rights.
 
"I was ashamed that in this day and age there are people who are still trying to force other people into the religion that they are not willing to be part of," said one of the Christian leaders Mr Stewart Nyabereka from POAZ. "This story of conversion saddened me and I thought, how will I feel if someone is trying to force me to change my religion. Even in Islam they promote the god of peace. These hostile practices happening around the world must be stopped, the organisation of the CCK must shut down."
 
In Southern Africa, we call on citizens to join us in a rally for the end of the abuse by religious institutions and the practice of coercive conversion.  We call on the government of Zimbabwe to condemn these practices and encourage the protection of the right to freedom of religion in our country, region and around the world.

Source - Agencies

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