U.N. officials have condemned the sectarian violence in Cairo on Oct. 9 that left at least two dozen dead and hundreds injured. A protest against a church attack in Aswan turned violent as some Christians and Muslims battled each other and others joined forces to protest military rule and oppose soldiers and riot police.
Meanwhile, in an interview with ENInews, the U.N.’s special rapporteur (or reporter) on religious freedom said that governments must create an atmosphere of religious tolerance and communication.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement on Oct. 11 that the Egyptian government should “guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties for Egyptians of all faiths.” Rupert Colville, a spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, said Egyptian authorities should “ensure the protection of all, including minority groups,” as they exercise freedom of assembly and expression.
National leaders should realize it is their responsibility to promote inter-religious communication and a “climate of tolerance,” Heiner Bielefeldt, U.N. special rapporteur (or reporter) on freedom of religion, told ENInews in an interview on Oct. 7.
The special rapporteur is appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council with a mandate to identify obstacles to freedom of religion or belief and present recommendations on ways to overcome them.
The state, he said, should remain neutral and guarantee freedom of religion. In his interim report to the U.N. General Assembly last July, Bielefeldt mentioned attacks and threats of attacks against minority Coptic Christian worshippers in Egypt; intimidation and assault of a member of an evangelical Baptist church in a village in Moldova by members of the majority Orthodox community and alleged demolition of a Shi’a mosque in April 2011 in Bahrain.
The special expert also said he was concerned that people are being imprisoned and sentenced to death on charges of apostasy and blasphemy.
He emphasized that there is no antagonism between the freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and noted they are two different rights that must be balanced.