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ICC Note: Recognition that there is a problem is the first step toward its solution.  A study by a faculty member of the law school of the National University of Singapore points out that a serious problem of religious persecution exists in a majority of ASEAN nations.  Let us pray that community and government leaders in southeast Asia will recognize this documented problem and allow greater freedom for those currently persecuted for their beliefs.


05/01/2015 Southeast Asia (Today) – Blurring lines between religion and nationalism, weak rule of law and the politicisation of religion are primary factors fuelling religious persecution in member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and across the region, concluded a study commissioned by the Human Rights Resource Centre for ASEAN.

Based on research conducted in all 10 member states between February and December last year, Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion found varying degrees of overt religious persecution in eight ASEAN countries, with the exception of Singapore and Brunei.

However, it noted that the apparent absence of religious conflict in Brunei might be attributed to a general lack of political and civic space within the country, which is the only monarchy in ASEAN.

Sharing key findings at a seminar yesterday, lead researcher Jaclyn Neo, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore’s law faculty, noted that the conflation of national identity with one religion in certain states had reinforced political animosity towards minority groups, who are then seen as “national traitors” or people “outside the nation”.

While lauding the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration as a step towards regional peace and security, Asst Prof Neo stressed that there are gaps within the declaration that remain to be addressed, such as different definitions of human rights among member states.

“How can we claim to commit to human rights when we all have different conceptions … and they are all equally legitimate,” she said.

As a region, ASEAN must guard against “exceptional claims” and opposing concepts of human rights to provide a coherent response to instances of religious intolerance, she stressed.


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