'Why elevate one religiophobia to the exclusion of others?' India at the UN
United Nations/New Delhi/UNI: India has pointed out that while it condemns antisemitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia, there is clear evidence of the growth of religiophobia affecting followers of non-Abrahamic religions as well, especially anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-Sikh phobias.
As the UN decided to declare March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia, India told the UN General Assembly that it is concerned about “elevating the phobia against one religion to the level of an international day, to the exclusion of all the others”.
India's Permanent Representative to the UN TS Tirumurti said that “Celebration of a religion is one thing but to commemorate the combatting of hatred against one religion is quite another. In fact, this resolution may well end up downplaying the seriousness of phobias against all other religions.”
Expressing deep concern on the rise in instances of discrimination, intolerance and violence directed against members of many religious communities in various parts of the world, Tirumurti said that India as a pluralistic and democratic country that is home to almost all religions of the world.
It has always welcomed, over the centuries, those persecuted around the world for their faith or belief. “They have always found in India a safe haven shorn of persecution or discrimination. This is true whether they were Zoroastrians or Buddhists or Jews or people of any other faith,” he said.
“Therefore, it is with deep concern that we have viewed the growing manifestation of intolerance, discrimination or violence against followers of religions, including rise in sectarian violence in some countries.”
He said these contemporary forms of religiophobia - anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-Sikh phobias - can be witnessed in the increase in attacks on religious places of worship like gurudwaras, monasteries, temples etc. or in spreading of hatred and disinformation against non-Abrahamic religions in many countries.
Giving examples, he said the destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, the violation of gurudwara premises, massacre of Sikh pilgrims in gurudwaras, attacks on temples, glorification of breaking of idols in temples etc. contribute to the rise of contemporary forms of religiophobia against non-Abrahamic religions.
He said that Hinduism has more than 1.2 billion followers, Buddhism more than 535 million and Sikhism more than 30 million spread out around the world. “It is time that we acknowledged the prevalence of religiophobia, rather than single out just one,” he asserted.
He reminded the UN that in 2019 that it had already proclaimed August 22 as the International Day commemorating the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief, which is fully inclusive in nature.
The UN also has an International Day of Tolerance observed on 16 November.
“We are not convinced that we need to elevate phobia against one religion to the level of an international day. We need to always be inclusive, especially in the United Nations,” he said.
Tirumurti said that India is proud that pluralism is at the core of its existence and firmly believes in equal protection and promotion of all religions and faith. “It is, therefore, unfortunate that word 'pluralism' finds no mention in the resolution and the sponsors have not found it fit to take on board our amendments to include the word “pluralism” in the text for reasons best known to them,” he pointed out.
“We hope that the resolution adopted today does not set a precedent which will lead to multiple resolutions on phobias based on selective religions and divide the United Nations into religious camps," he said.
“It is important that the United Nations remains above such religious matters which may seek to divide us rather than bring us together on one platform of peace and harmony and treat the World as One Family,” he pointed out.
India's comments came even as Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomed the UN General Assembly (UNGA)'s decision to approve a resolution setting March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.
The resolution, adopted on Tuesday by consensus by the 193-member world body and co-sponsored by 55 mainly Muslim countries, emphasises the right to freedom of religion and belief and recalls a 1981 resolution calling for “the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief”.