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MRG reacts to the report of the UN Freedom of Religion or Belief expert on religious minorities in conflict

10 March 2022

This statement was delivered by Glenn Payot in the name of MRG at the Human Rights Council’s Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of religion or belief, 49th Session, held on Thursday 10 March 2022.

Mister Special Rapporteur,

Minority Rights Group (MRG) welcomes your report, on a topic of particular relevance for the many religious minorities affected by conflicts.

We particularly welcome your promotion of contextual analyses of conflicts, which are attentive to religious identities as a factor, but also take into account a range of other factors and wider local realities, in order to avoid simplistic understandings as well as inadequate approaches to conflict resolution.

Drawing from our decade-long experience working with minorities in conflict or post-conflict situations, we want to highlight three points to echo some of your conclusions:

Firstly, our experience shows that socio-economic factors shape the conditions faced by religious minorities across the different stages of conflict. Existing marginalisation and discrimination against religious minorities reinforces their vulnerabilities during conflict. This is particularly pronounced for minority women, owing to the gendered impacts of conflict.

Secondly, religious minorities who lack adequate state protection, access to governance structures and resources are often increasingly drawn into conflict. This leads to further militarisation and divisions within and across communities, intensifying the complexity of conflicts and leading to their protraction.

Relatedly, MRG would like to echo your concerns regarding the instrumentalization of religious identities, which has increased as rising authoritarianism coalesces with global crises. MRG and its partners have documented how the Covid-19 pandemic has been used as a pretext for further repression of conflict-affected minorities, for example displaced Rohingya in both Myanmar and India. By amplifying long-standing social divisions and the shrinking of civic space, the instrumentalization of religious identities has contributed to minority insecurity, with detrimental effects in terms of conflict prevention and resolution.

I thank you.