November 9, 2012
The Most Troubling Violation of Human Rights? Conversion, Says U.N. Report
U.N. special rapporteur: Right to conversion is "unconditionally protected under international human rights law."
Restrictions on religious conversion have "become a human rights problem of great concern," according to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
Speaking to the UN General Assembly last week, Heiner Bielefeldt said those violations need to stop. He urged states to "consistently respect, protect and promote the human right to freedom of religion or belief in the area of conversion."
Bielefeldt relayed the findings of his comprehensive report, which was distributed in August. The report analyzes "patterns of abuses that are perpetrated in the name of religious or ideological truth claims."
In his address, Bielefeldt said some religious freedom abuses were perpetrated by state agencies, but many more were the result of widespread societal prejudices against certain religions. In addition, he said the violations against women were of particular concern.
“In addition to being exposed to manifestations of social pressure, public contempt and systematic discrimination, converts often face insurmountable administrative obstacles when trying to live in conformity with their convictions,” he said.
This is a particular problem in countries like India, where Hindu nationalists initiated attacks on Christians, 20 of whom were arrested for celebrating baptisms, in Orissa in October. A similar attempt to force Christians to convert back to Hinduism occurred in September.
CT has previously noted the case of Ethiopian Christians who were detained and pressured to convert to Islam in Saudi Arabia. In 2011, CT noted the arrests of 12 people in India for converting to Christianity without notifying government officials first.