SARGODHA, PAKISTAN, August 31, 2020 /24-7PressRelease/ — On August 29th, the Pakistan Minorities Alliance (PMA) along with Youth Participation Intercultural Dialogue (YPIDA), and the Muslim Association of Greece (MAG), hosted a webinar entitled Post COVID-19 Era, Minority, and Human Rights.

As the spread of COVID-19 has increased around the world, human rights violations of minorities has also increased. This is because many governments or majorities have often unjustly connected them to the spread of COVID-19. The purpose of the August 29th webinar was to discuss the protection and improvement of the human rights of minorities targeted during and after the COVID-19 crisis. The webinar garnered the interest of many including politicians, representatives of religious organizations, human rights activists, and journalists spanning 8 countries including the USA, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Republic of Korea and India. The webinar assembled 150 attendees – the maximum the platform could hold.

The following panelists spoke at the webinar: Tahir Naveed Chaudhry (Chairman of PMA) from Pakistan, Aftab Jehangir (Member of National Assembly of Pakistan, Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Religious Affairs) from Pakistan, Anna Stamou (Director of Muslim Association of Greece) from Greece, Parousia Makanzu (Reporter of AfricaNews) from DRC, Ibrahim B. Syed (President of Islamic Research Foundation International Inc.) from USA, Imran Yusaf (President of Christian Coordination Council Pakistan) from Pakistan, Yevgeniy Zhovtis (President of KIBHR) from Kazakhstan, and Eldon Jones (Pastor of Evangelical Protestant Church in Louisville, Peace activist) from USA. The panelists discussed the realities of the human rights issues minorities face using real cases around the world that have caused concern. The discussions held an urgent message for people from all social backgrounds to make every effort to protect the human rights of minorities suffering around the world.

Panelist Highlights:

Mr. Tahir Naveed Chaudhry: “When we look back at history, the majority has always persecuted the minorities.” He pointed to an issue in South Korea stating “The Korean Government blamed Shincheonji Church, a minority organization, by stating that ‘COVID-19 has spread because of Shincheonji’ to avoid taking responsibility themselves.”

Mr. Eldon Jones: “In South Korea, the NGO HWPL has been threatened with their government charter being revoked as a by-product of the persecution of Shincheonji Church,” and “I find this so hard to fathom, that an organization that has been promoting peace on a global level and has garnered support from the world’s political leaders as well as from all the organized religions of the world who are uniting with the goal of an International Law being established to outlaw war.” Furthermore, he insisted that “Shincheonji members who are infected are also victims of COVID-19 that should be protected and taken care of, not become further victimized.”

Mr. Aftab Jehangir: “The lockdown has had a profound impact mainly on immigrants. Minorities in many countries are more likely to live in overcrowded housing conditions making physical distancing and self-isolation more challenging. Limited digital access and parental education gaps may also make homeschooling very difficult.”

Ms. Anna Stamou: “In my country we don’t have a separation between state and church. That means that when we have minorities, the powerful’s will is winning always. It is obvious that the interfaith dialogue does not exactly blossom in Greece… Religions should inspire the followers, not trying to eliminate the others.”

Mr. Ibrahim Syed spoke about a case of persecution involving the Muslim minority which occurred in New Delhi. He pointed out “Religious nationalism is the relationship of nationalism to a particular religious belief, dogma, or affiliation.” He also emphasized “When the government implements policy and enforcement with a religious bias, it is displaying religious nationalism.”

Mr. Yevgeniy Zhovtis: “In the last couple of years there were a number of inter-ethnic conflicts including the incidences in February 2020 in rural areas in the south of the country between Kazakhs and Dungans which left more than 10 people dead, dozens injured and a number of homes and cars burned down… Kazakhstan does not have any anti-discrimination legislation, institutions or effective procedures.”

Ms. Parousia Makanzu discussed the human rights of pygmies, stating, “This pandemic has compounded the amount of human rights violations all over the country, mostly for minorities who were already facing many problems.” Furthermore, “Although there has been some improvements in the protections of the rights of pygmies, research reveals that COVID-19 has worsened the precarious conditions of those people who were already living in isolation and whose needs are often neglected by leaders during their sessions.” She added, “We recommend the Congolese government to officially use the forestry knowledge of the pygmy people in the fight against COVID-19. This would ensure equality of rights for all people all over the country.”

Mr. Imran Yusaf: “Observing the crisis and its impact through a human rights lens puts a focus on how it is affecting people on the ground. How it is affecting the vulnerable groups like minorities and what can be done?” He also emphasized, “In this critical situation guaranteeing human rights for everyone is a ‘Great Challenge’ but we all know that civil rights and human rights are obligations which states must abide by.”

This webinar is available through SNS as well as Youtube, and can be accessed here.

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