Historical and ongoing discrimination threatens spiritual, cultural and physical survival of indigenous peoples, says UN report
Historic and ongoing discrimination, violence and hostility threaten the spiritual, cultural and even physical survival of Indigenous peoples and violate their right to freedom of religion or belief, a landmark UN report concluded today.
“Serious, systematic and systemic discrimination and marginalization affect the ability of indigenous peoples to survive, let alone thrive, in exercising their most intimate religious or belief beliefs,” says the report presented to the General Assembly by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Religion. belief.
It explored ‘indigenous spirituality’ as a distinctively nature-based ‘way of life’, documented the experiences of affected rights-holders – from forced displacement to environmental destruction – and offered recommendations to protect and promote the freedom of religion or belief of indigenous peoples, consistent with international law.
As states restrict their sacred ceremonies, languages, and transmission of traditional knowledge, beyond that, indigenous peoples face challenges in exercising their freedom of religion or belief through forced assimilation and displacement, violence against indigenous environmental and human rights defenders and the destruction of sacred sites, the report says.
“Given their inextricable relationship between the land and the sacred, many Indigenous peoples believe that restricting access to and use of ancestral territories amounts to prohibiting spiritual experiences,” the report states.
He also observed that while indigenous peoples are disproportionately vulnerable to environmental crises, including climate change, many are in a unique position as traditional stewards of nature to use their spiritual and traditional knowledge to sustain it.
“While Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects followers of all religions or beliefs, a recurring question […] is whether its application has been adequate or appropriate for Indigenous peoples,” the report said.
The report was guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and extensive consultations with rights holders around the world to develop “a framework for productive and sustained dialogue”. It provides practical recommendations for states and other key actors to better protect the right to freedom of religion or belief of indigenous peoples.
The report was initiated and produced by Professor Ahmed Shaheed as the final report to the United Nations General Assembly as Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and presented to the General Assembly by his successor, the Dr. Nazila Ghana.