This past year, the IDS-led Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID) has established strong relationships with policy influencers in the UK and the United Nations. We also provided much-needed evidence on the poorly documented discrimination of religious minority groups – notably on online hate speech, Covid-19 impacts, and targeting and abuse of women.
Although Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, discrimination on the basis of religion or belief is widespread around the world. It can result in lack of access to basic services, experiences of verbal, emotional or physical violence and abuse, and exclusion from social and political processes. CREID provides research and practical programmes to redress the impact of such discrimination.
Alerting UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB
CREID’s work includes monitoring online hate speech against religious minorities. In spring 2020, local partners identified a spike in hate speech on social media linked to senior public figures in Pakistan, targeting the Ahmadiyya community, which is already stigmatised, socially and economically alienated, and experiencing hate-based violence. CREID rapidly mobilised to alert international stakeholders, including the UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB, Ahmed Shaheed, who subsequently wrote a letter to the Pakistani government condemning the situation.
Mr Shaheed also referenced CREID evidence on how Covid-19 has exacerbated religious inequalities in his October 2020 report to the UN General Assembly – and, as a follower of CREID on Twitter, he has tweeted links to CREID papers.
Shaping UK Government policy
In the UK, CREID also works closely with parliamentarians shaping government policy on FoRB. In autumn 2020, Rehman Chishti MP, the former Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on FoRB, consulted CREID Director, IDS Fellow Mariz Tadros, to prepare his speech in a parliamentary debate on the persecution of Christians and FoRB, in which he referenced CREID evidence.
Current Special Envoy, Fiona Bruce MP, also quoted CREID research in a parliamentary debate on the impact of Covid-19 on FoRB. Earlier, CREID research was cited by Lord Alton, another FoRB advocate, in a written parliamentary question on ideologically motivated sexual abuse, and was reiterated in the reply from the government minister Baroness Sugg.
Much-needed evidence on minority women’s experiences
Mariz Tadros presented evidence on the intersection of religious marginality, economic exclusion, and gender inequality at the UK FoRB Forum (of which CREID is an active member). This is chaired by the Bishop of Truro, whose report on religious minority persecution forms a key plank of UK policy on FoRB.
A major report by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on FoRB, published in February 2021, references CREID outputs, especially on Iraq and Pakistan, where CREID has several projects. Its discussion on the experiences of Pakistan’s Hazara Shia women, a minority within a minority, draws almost exclusively on our work – showing how CREID is raising issues not covered elsewhere.
CREID partners also provided written and oral evidence to the Pakistani Minorities APPG’s inquiry into forced conversions and forced marriages of religious minority girls, conducted in closed hearings with activists and families who have been directly affected. This evidence drew on innovative participatory research by CREID partners with women from religious minorities in Pakistan, published in a special collection of papers. These were launched at an event on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, opened by the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, Karima Bennoune. CREID continues to raise this matter, most recently in a Briefing Note for UK parliamentarians on the case of Kavita Oad, a 13-year-old Hindu girl abducted in March 2021.