The Kalasha – Voiceless Nation Teeters on the Brink of Extinction | Part 2 of 2

Religious persecution through systemic discrimination and economic persecution of one of the most vulnerable populations in Pakistan

By John Cosenza and John T. Pinna


Part 2 of a 2-part series. Part 1 can be found here

CURRENT DILEMMAS

Lack of access to the valleys and natural resources pose a significant threat to the existence of the Kalasha community. The Kalasha valleys are remote and difficult to access. Many scholars argue the valleys’ inaccessibility have historically safeguarded the Kalasha from the outside world. The first road into the Bumboret valley, constructed in 1974, is notoriously difficult to navigate and is 25 miles from the nearest city, Chitral. Frequent mudslides and heavy snowfalls compound the valley’s inaccessibility. (Maggi 2004, 11) Although a new road and tunnel were constructed in 1980 to enable access to the valleys during winter months, it remains a difficult journey. (Cacopardo 1992, 338)

As access to the valleys steadily improved, the Kalasha’s exposure to tourists, immigrants, modern infrastructure, and new methods of resource use and commodity exchange exponentially increased. Swelling numbers of immigrants from ethnic communities such as the Pathan, Kho, Gujur, Bashgali, and Nuristani subsequently established enclaves within the valleys. Many of these newcomers were Muslim and hail from regions across Southern Afghanistan. (Maggi 2004, 12; Cacopardo 1992, 335; Parkes 1999, 10-11)

The sudden influx of people posed a significant challenge to the Kalasha’s traditional methods of resource management. During his visit in the 1990s, University Professor and Archeologist Alberto Cacopardo reported a group of Afghan refugees cut down large portions of evergreen forests the Kalasha community depend on. (Cacopardo 1991, 291; Maggi 12) The established Kalasha constabulary committee[1] was not capable of holding non-Kalasha immigrants or commercial logging companies accountable to its customary limits and regulations of resource use (Zaman and Hussain 275-6). Legislation introduced by the Pakistani government to address tribal land rights has been inconsistently enforced and has been ardently, even violently, contested. (Parkes 1999, 10-21; Maggi 1-5)[2]

One timber dispute, led by a local Kalasha leader, Saifullah Jan, dragged on through multiple legal appeals for over 17 years. (Parkes 1999, 19) Although the case was eventually awarded to the Kalasha, the victory came at significant cost. The Deputy Commissioner’s office conducted multiple violent demonstrations, including arson attacks and exchanges of gunfire. (Parkes 1999, 19-20) Moreover, a grenade was thrown into the house of Saifullah Jan; the explosion killed his younger brother. (Parkes 1999, 19) In the meantime, excessive logging and smuggled timber have led to deforestation, loss of winter fodder for Kalasha goatherds, erosion of soil, and flooding throughout the valleys. (Zaman and Hussain 275; Parkes 1999, 21)

Kalasha subsistence is comparable with many communities that practice ‘mixed mountain economy’ small-scale agriculture combined with livestock husbandry within the Hindu Kush valleys. However, Parkes claims that traditionally, due to the variety and extent of land and resources available to them, the Kalasha have fared better economically than their neighbors (Parkes 1999, 9). Over recent years, however, encroachment on what have traditionally been Kalasha lands and resources threaten the tribe’s access to this wealth. (Zaman and Hussain 274) Thus, to retain their cultural practices, the Kalasha must be able to retain and exercise their rights over their land. Indeed, Saifullah Jan has ambitiously echoed this message for decades, declaring in 1992, “we don’t need money or technology from the outside, we need legal protection, as yet seemingly forthcoming only through collective protest and lengthy litigation.” (Parkes 1999, 22)

 

Systemic & Forcible Conversions

Cacopardo claims that mass conversion of the Kalasha began sometime between the second half of the 18th century and the early 20th. (Cacopardo 1991, 285, 304) Many locals place the conversions in connection with a peaceful proselytizing figure named Babaji from the valley of Shishi Kuh. However, not all Kalasha agree with or are even aware of this history. (Cacopardo 1991, 285, 304) Chitral communities have experienced varying methods of conversion, some peaceful and some violent. For instance, some converted residents of the former Kalasha Urtsun valley claim that their mass conversion took place peacefully. On the other hand, a Kalasha woman from Birir, who had lived in Urtsun before being married in another valley, claimed the Urtsun valley conversion was a result of a violent Bashgali raid. The Basghali war party burned and plundered the village and killed all who refused to embrace Islam. (Cacopardo 1991, 347)

Despite the cause, the latter half of the 18th century experienced a significant transformation from Kalasha to Muslim. Indeed, entire villages, and even entire valleys, were converted both peacefully and forcibly. (Cacopardo 1991, 347) These conversions do not only entail a change of professed faith but a complete change in Kalasha language, religion, architecture, genealogical history, and customary lifestyle. (Cacopardo 1991, 285-289) In an attempt to account for this unusual “abject, utter assimilation,” scholars have suggested this totalizing cultural erasure is an attempt to obliterate all ties to a servile, dejected, oppressed, and “heathen” pre-Islamic past. (Cacopardo 1992, 337)

Today, societal and economic pressures are large contributors to Islamic conversion. Fouzia Saeed, head of the national institute called Lok Virsa, which focuses on promoting and raising awareness about traditional Pakistani cultures, states: “A lot of people are leaving their culture and their religion because a lot of immense social pressure and there are forced conversions.” (Gul 2016) Moreover, converting to Islam benefits the Kalasha economically, as Muslim business owners are more likely to hire or do business with converts. The Kalasha face several conversion tactics that continue to deteriorate their religion, beliefs, traditions, and identity.

 

Cash Economy, Tourism & Commodity Exchange

In recent decades, the valley communities have been subject to an adapting and unfamiliar cash economy. As an agricultural community, the Kalasha economy is prone to uncertainty. (Parkes 1999, 14, 21-22) Droughts, floods, and harsh winters at times require Kalasha to take out goods on loan from local storekeepers, which typically include exorbitant rates. (Parkes 1999, 12-15) Many Kalasha have attempted to levy the debt with the little that they have, such as the mortgage of their land, walnut trees, or rights to their land and its resources. (Parkes 1999, 15; Zaman and Hussain 276) Despite Pakistani federal legislation that prohibits the acquisition of tribal property by non-tribe members, the exchanges and sales occur nonetheless. (Zaman and Hussain 278)[3]

Within the last 30 years, the construction of new roads and dirt tracks into the valleys supported the rise of a cash economy including trade, tourism, and management of enterprises as contractors for NGO projects. (Petersen 2016, 15) The Kalasha’s unique cultural and religious practices, and their mythical ties to the ancient Greeks, have particularly garnered interest from the tourist industry. Although no genetic ties between Kalasha and Greeks have been discovered, the legend has encouraged Greek tourists to the valleys who are seeking a link to their ancestral past. Greek tourists bring coins and small perfume bottles with a portrait of Alexander the Great while Greek filmmakers have come to film the Kalasha. Some Greeks have even paid Kalasha community members to perform their unique dance rituals back in Greece. (Hilton 2010)

Although tourism decreased significantly following the September 11th attacks on the U.S. World Trade Center, an ethnic tourist industry has gradually developed within the valleys. Although this tourism promises income, it also brings problems. Few Kalasha own tourist companies or work for them. ((Naqvi 1996, 694) It is the non-Kalash who prosper economically because they “own almost all of the hotels that tourists live and eat in; they alone own the jeeps the tourists travel by and they alone own the small grocery shops in the area.” (Naqvi 1996, 692) In turn, the Kalasha themselves receive little income from tourism. Further, some tourists are ignorant and disrespectful and treat the Kalasha as little more than “exotic animals.” (Zaman and Hussain 280)

 

Discrimination in Education

As the Kalasha valleys became more integrated with other sectors of the local and regional economy, education became increasingly vital to attain a job in the workforce. In 1981, the Pakistani government ruled the Kalasha could use their own language as the medium of instruction, despite Pakistani schools’ uniform syllabus. (World Minorities Report 4) Consequently, bilingualism and multilingualism are dominant among the Kalasha. Most adults and teachers are native Khowar speakers. Moreover, Urdu and English are taught in schools and spoken by those who receive an education. (Petersen 2016, 13)[4] Thus, many Kalasha are receiving an education in a language, culture, and religion they deem irrelevant to their daily lifestyle and cultural practices.[5]

Kalasha children face significant discrimination in both private and public schools. Many Kalasha children have no choice but to attend a local mosque-school[6] or other school financed by missionaries of other religions. (Zaman and Hussain 272) The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) additionally reports that “[r]eligious freedom concerns are also evident in Pakistan’s public schools.” (USCIRF 2000, 131) USCIRF notes that Pakistani schools use textbooks that “foster prejudice and intolerance of religious minorities,”[7] and that the religious understandings and pedagogical methods of many teachers are troublesome. (USCIRF 2000, 131)

Reports of instances substantiating USCIRF’s claims with respect to Kalasha schools are abundant. Local school teachers often partner with missionaries to pressure Kalash schoolchildren by constantly referring to the Kalash religion and culture in degrading and demeaning terms. In one instance, a Muslim teacher refused to promote Kalash students from one grade to the next unless they converted to Islam. (Naqvi 1996, 693) The result is devastating to the social and educational advancement of Kalasha children and the community at large. Indeed, there “is a staggering discrepancy between the numbers of Kalash and Muslim children attending school. In 1988, there were a total of 646 Muslim students as compared to 77 Kalash students. (Zaman and Hussain 272; Naqvi 1996, 693) Moreover, several complaints assert that Pakistani school curriculum—including such subjects as Arabic, Qur’an, and Islamiyat—is not relevant, or even appropriate, for Kalasha school children. (Maggi 2004, 25)

Education opportunities have since improved, thanks to Athanasios Lerunis, founder of a Greek-based NGO dedicated to constructing Kalasha schools. By the end of 2010, Mr. Lerunis’ organization founded the first Kalasha-only primary school and provided further funding for the construction of additional schools and other community buildings. (Taj & Heegard 2016, 119) Today, nine Kalasha primary schools exist due to the efforts of Lerunis and additional foundations such as the Aga Khan Foundation. In these schools, children are taught specific Kalasha courses such as writing in the newly established Kalasha alphabet as well as Kalasha religion and culture outside the realm of Pakistan’s national curriculum. (Taj & Heegard 2016, 119) Yet, secondary schools bring together children from all communities in the three valleys, Muslims as well as Kalasha. The secondary schools do not teach Kalasha-specific subjects but do teach Islamic studies.

 

Discrimination in Jobs & Income  

It has become increasingly difficult for many Kalasha to integrate within this new cash economy in recent years. Restriction of economic opportunity is exacerbated primarily because Muslims own nearly all private institutions and refuse to hire Kalasha citizens. As mentioned earlier, this inequality exists virtually everywhere in private industries such as tourism. However, this prejudice carries over into the public sector as well, where Kalasha are not considered for even the most minor and unskilled positions (Naqvi 1996, 694). According to Shakil Durrani, “the Kalash find it virtually impossible to get even low paid jobs in his own area; in local schools and dispensaries situated in his territory, he is not even recruited for the menial jobs of Behishti (watercarrier), Chowkidar (Security Man) or an office elderly.” (Naqvi 1996, 694)

Indeed, “In 1986, out of a total of 108 government jobs in the Kalash valleys, only 20 were filled by Kalash.” (Naqvi 1996, 694) In turn, economic and societal pressure from the Islamic community has encouraged large numbers of young Kalasha to convert to Islam in exchange for jobs. (Gul 2016) Kalasha are typically too poor, uneducated or unconnected to advance economically and socially. This leaves the Kalasha with little choice and subjects much of their community to a life of subsistence farming with no promise for improvement.

Fortunately, recent increases in education among the Kalasha and specific training after high school have resulted in more promising jobs such as teachers, police officers, bankers and nurses. (Taj & Heegard 2016, 120) Kalasha women, in particular, have experienced significant success in both education and this newly emerging workforce. Throughout the Hindu Kush Valley, it is reported that three Kalasha women work as teachers, five work in NGOs, four are in the Pakistani police, and three work in the border police. (Taj & Heegard 2016, 122) Many educated Kalasha work in the valleys as their education can be said to benefit the community. Notably, Taj Khan Kalash and Jan Heegard report, “we see very few converts among the educated Kalasha, indicating that education strengthens what we may call the ethnic identity of being Kalasha.” (Taj & Heegard 2016, 122) Although recent increases in education and jobs are promising, there is much work to be done. The vast majority of the Kalasha continue to live in poverty and lack the resources, education, or training to pursue an alternative lifestyle outside of subsistence farming.

 

Discrimination & Violence 

In addition to economic discrimination, cultural, religious, and ethnic discrimination are prominent features of life in the Kalasha community. Neither the Kalasha’s Muslim nor non-Muslim neighbors hold the community in high esteem. (Maggi 2004, 20; Loude and Livre 1988, 6) Cacopardo confirms Robertson’s comments that the Kalasha were viewed as the “most servile [and] degraded” people as reflected in the attitudes of their neighbors during his visit. (Maggi 2004, 20) Neighboring communities think of Kalasha workers as lazy and thieves (Zaman and Hussain 280). The name “Kalash” itself is considered a derogatory word throughout the Hind Kush valleys. During his visit, Cacopardo reports a scene where a “young man from Urtsun suddenly blushed in the Drosh Bazar when a shopkeeper mentioned mockingly that his people were Kalasha.” (Cacopardo 1991, 321) In short, scholars suggest that the many years of indentured servitude and public harassment have negatively affected the Kalasha community’s reputation and psyche. (Zaman and Hussain 280)

Since 2009, when US troops began to pull out of the Southern region of Afghanistan, reports of attacks on the Kalasha community by Islamic extremists including the Nouristanis, Ayunis and the Taliban have increased. (Maggi 22; Conway 2011; Walsh 2011) At this point, frequent clashes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border have evolved into a dispersed and protracted war dragging on between the Pakistani government and Taliban. Beginning in 2011, the Pakistani government has billeted its troops in the Kalasha Dur, which would otherwise host a community center, medical clinic, and local school. (Walsh 2011)

In short, much uncertainty and unrest plague the region. Recent disputes between the Taliban and Pakistani government have heightened tensions and contribute to an increasingly chaotic environment. Although security is theoretically available to the Kalasha, it is not to be found. Although legislation protecting their rights, debts, lands, and schools are theoretically available, they are not enforced. (Zaman and Hussain 273) As a result, the Kalasha are subject to frequent acts of violence.

 

Religious freedom

Reports of incidents of religious discrimination against the Kalasha are diverse and abundant, indicating that the bigotry against the Kalasha permeates all aspects of their daily life. Furthermore, reports indicate that the Pakistani government has effectively tolerated extensive, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom since the inception of the state. Although the government has passed federal legislation to assist religious minorities generally, and even to assist the Kalasha as a tribe and minority ethnic group specifically, the legislation remains infrequently enforced. (USCIRF 121; Zaman and Hussain 272)

 

Official Status and Representation

Although Pakistan voted to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) on September 13th, 2007, the government refuses to acknowledge multiple indigenous communities. The Kalasha have been denied the official status of “religious minority” in Pakistan since their admittance to the nation, despite unambiguously meeting the required criteria for this status. (Sikander 2012; Cultural Survival Report 2017, 1-3) Despite the lack of official recognition, the government of Pakistan has frequently referred to the Kalasha as a religious group. (Zaman and Hussain 283; Khan Kalash, Abstract)[8] Sikandar Khan Kalash reports that Pakistan’s NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) even briefly allowed “Kalasha” to appear on its list of religions before suddenly removing it again. (Sikandar 2012) With such benefits and rights as reserved minority seats in the National Assembly at stake, the Pakistani government’s inexplicable and persistent refusal to afford the Kalasha their rightful status as a religious minority is disturbing. (USCIRF 2000, 122)

Though the Kalasha do hold the right to vote in local and federal elections, they have failed to achieve direct representation in either local or federal civil government (Maggi 2004, 24). The Kalasha are too few to be designated a seat in local or federal assemblies. Maggi claims that derogatory stereotypes and discrimination increase the challenges of running a successful campaign. (Maggi 2004, 24) Lastly, the Kalasha do not have governmental representation or protection as a religious minority, although they do indeed meet the necessary qualifications for this status. (Cultural Survival Report 2017, 1-3)

 

Ceaseless Harassment

Cultural and religious differences with their neighbors and visitors are frequently a source of tension or cause of harassment for the Kalasha people. Mullahs frequently denounce Kalasha customs as ignorant or evil. (Parkes, 1999, 5-10) Muslim neighbors frequently admonish the Kalasha to convert, forebodingly warning them of their fate in hell if they fail to embrace Islam. (Maggi 2004, 29-30) Even those tourists who travel to witness Kalasha rituals frequently yell insults and jeers at the proceedings. Maggi emphasizes that this ceaseless harassment is not verbal alone. The rape and assault of Kalasha women by non-Kalasha men, she says, has become so frequent that the women react to male outsiders with a bristling, uneasy distrust. (Maggi 2004, 22)

 

CONCLUSION AND POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

Over recent years, the Pakistani government’s failure to protect religious minorities has given cause for particular concern. (USCIRF 2000, 120) Increasing pressure has been put on several religious minority populations, including Shi’a Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs. (124-126) Their geographic remoteness, lack of formal legal recognition, and the increasing turbulence of the region[9] make the Kalasha particularly vulnerable amidst this dangerous trend. There have been efforts to improve the climate for religious minorities in Pakistan, but still, in the case of the Kalasha, special consideration, investigations, and efforts must be taken.

The frequency, ubiquity, and diversity of these reports are deeply concerning and declare an urgent need to put an end to these intolerable acts of religious discrimination against the Kalasha. Despite their uniqueness, the Kalasha have a right to practice their religion and customs in an environment of the utmost possible safety as equal citizens of Pakistan.[10] Furthermore, the Pakistani government has a responsibility to recognize and enforce the social, political, and human rights inherent to the Kalasha as an indigenous religious and ethnic minority, and to take an active and substantive stand against unlawful, violent, or discriminatory acts committed against them. Lastly, efforts and initiatives to cultivate pride, and to encourage the preservation of this valuable and unique society should be not only be protected and encouraged but also at the forefront for the promotion and advancement of world-wide social justice.

Whatever the motive, preservation of the Kalash as a distinct people will require a series of affirmative measures. Moreover, given the dire economic straits within which Pakistani governments function, their protection will require treating them preferentially. Today, concern for indigenous people is as much a part of Western political orthodoxy as is concern for the environment. Recently, this concern has manifested itself primarily through what some term the emerging international law norm regarding the rights of indigenous peoples. This norm, at the very minimum, safeguards the right of communities to exist as distinct units of human interaction. The Trump administration, claiming to be champions of international religious freedom and the voice for human rights, has the unique opportunity to save these unique people from extinction. The Trump Administration can start by pressuring the Pakistani government to follow key strategic actions outlined in the Potomac Declaration including;

  • Defending the Human Right of Freedom of Religion or belief[11]
  • Confronting Legal Limitations[12]
  • Advocating for Equal Rights and Protections for All, Including Members of Religious Minorities[13]
  • Responding to Genocide and Other Mass Atrocities[14]
  • Preserving Cultural Heritage[15]

Each strategic policy outlined in the Potomac Plan of Action can be viewed on the U.S. Department of State website. The Kalasha community of the Hindu Kush Valley is a beacon of diversity in a contemporary world that increasingly persecutes ethnic and religious minorities. The Trump Administration has a moral responsibility to expose the egregious atrocities this community faces daily and protect this community from annihilation. With the help of international parties, the U.S. has a remarkable opportunity to implement and enforce the newly issued Potomac Plan of Action and save an ancient, unique, and beautiful culture from total extinction.

Part 1 can be found here


John Cosenza is a Market Research Analyst at Zitter Health Insights as well as a part time Research Consultant at the Mitchell Firm, a Washington D.C. based lobbying and consultancy firm. John graduated from Marist College with a dual degree in History & Political Science and graduated from Norwich University with a Master’s Degree in Diplomacy & International Business. John is an experienced professional with a unique combination of primary and secondary research skills as well as writing skills. He has experience working in the private and non-profit sector conducting secondary, qualitative, and quantitative research for multiple organizations including the world’s largest marketing and advertising agency, an international marketing consultancy firm, and a Washington, D.C. based Non-Government Organization (NGO). In addition to his research, John has co-authored multiple articles with Mr. John T. Pinna of the Mitchell firm focusing on international human rights issues and international religious persecution. John continues to work with political, think tank, and NGO leaders in the Washington D.C. metro area to advocate for international religious freedom. He can be reached at john.cosenza1@gmail.com or www.linkedin.com/in/john-cosenza/

John T. Pinna is the Vice President of the Mitchell Firm. A 20-year veteran of international development, he works tirelessly to develop programming with practical impacts on the lives of some of the most vulnerable populations in the world, working in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, and others. A staunch advocate for religious freedom, Pinna led the 2011 campaign for the reauthorization of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and has executed programming for the U.S. Department of State, USAID, EU, and several additional entities. Born in August 24, 1975 in New York, Pinna is a third generation Afghan American, an Indo-Greek of Bactrian descent from Nuristan Province in Afghanistan. Pinna considers himself a pluralist who happens to be Muslim. He maintains a deep connection to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Central Asia Region. He can be reached at john@themitchellfirm.com or www.linkedin.com/in/jtpinna/


[1] The traditional Kalasha constabulary organization is called the roi. The Kalasha roi consists of young Kalasha men who are responsible for regulating the use of valley resources such as pastures, fruit trees, and timber (Zaman and Hussain 274)

[2] Pakistan Land Enactment Act of 1960

[3] Parkes deems that NGO regulation of Kalasha financial straits has persisted in being inaccurate (Parkes 1999, 14-16). One reason Parkes proffers is that the Kalasha do not strictly adhere to the types of exchanges by which we measure them. In addition to barter and cash exchange, many Kalasha exchanges fulfill contractual gifts or relationships, cultivate communal bonds (Parkes 1999, 15), or even redistribute community wealth on the basis of religious ritual (Zaman and Hussain 285). As such, what looks to NGOs to be naïve or senseless commodity exchange may actually be part of a greater system of exchange (Parkes 1999, 14-16)

[4] The Kalasha community learns multiple languages via interaction with different communities and education. As noted, the Kalasha are immersed in various languages, including Kalash, Khowar, Urdu, English, Pashto, and Punjabi. Kalasha is used in all functions within the Kalsha-speaking community, while Khowar is used in interaction with Chitral-speaking and with Khowar-speaking neighbors in the valleys; Urdu is used in interactions with other Pakistanis, and English is used in interactions with other foreigners (Petersen 2016, 14)

[5] In recent years, Athanasios Lerunis, a prominent member of NGO Greek Volunteers, constructed the region’s first Kalasha-only school. The establishment of this school, however, incited the anger of non-Kalasha neighbors (Athanasiadis)

[6] A local school based in a mosque is called a madrasa. Although madrasas are not always associated with fundamentalism, extremism, or terrorism, the USCIRF reports that many madrasas within Pakistan do teach curriculum that promotes intolerance and violence (USCIRF 2000, 130)

[7] Among other concerns, USCIRF notes that many social studies textbooks contain exclusively Muslim characters, or depict minorities in negative, inaccurate, or offensive ways (USCIRF 2000, 131)

[8] Notable occasions include former President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto urging the Kalasha to keep to their customs and religion strictly (Zaman and Hussain 283) and Pakistan’s CERD committee (Centre of Excellence for Rural Development) defining the Kalasha as “an ethnic and religious minority,” (Khan Kalash Abstract)

[9] USCIRF recognized areas near the Afghan border in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan as an area of particular concern with respect to violations of religious freedom (USCIRF 2000, 123)

[10] It is worth noting that scholars have observed that the Kalasha religion dictates a specific relationship between the people, the land, and its resources. Accordingly, in order to protect the Kalasha religion, efforts must also be made to protect the land and natural resources of the Kalasha valleys

[11] This includes condemning acts of discrimination and violence in the name of or against a particular religion, protecting members of religious communities, respecting the liberty of parents to provide their children religious and moral education and more (Potomac Plan of Action, 2018)

[12] This includes the encouragement of state-managed registration systems for official recognition of religious communities, allowing freely accessible places of worship, repealing anti-blasphemy laws, and more (Potomac Plan of Action, 2018)

[13] This includes treating all persons equally under the law regardless of their beliefs, preventing discrimination on the grounds of religion, and ensuring that all people, including religious minority community members, are free from forced conversions and are entitled to receive equal protection under the law

[14] This includes taking immediate action to protect populations from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing, condemning messages or narratives that promote violence against the holders of certain religious or other beliefs, and working with victims of atrocities to develop and disseminate educational efforts about their experiences

[15] This includes safeguarding heritage sites, assisting with efforts to restore cultural heritage, and raising public awareness particularly among youth, of the significance and history of cultural heritage


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of International Christian Concern or any of its affiliates


 

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