Religious minorities face discrimination: UN expert

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Heiner Bielefeldt

Religious minorities around the world face various forms of discrimination, according to the United Nations independent expert on freedom of religion or belief.

Heiner Bielefeldt spoke to reporters in Geneva on Thursday after presenting his report to the Human Rights Council earlier this week.

He said the systematic discrimination and exclusion of religious minorities from key sectors of society are publicly fuelled by prejudices and vilification based on myths.

The expert pointed out that religious minorities face difficulties finding jobs in the public sector or when they start their own businesses.

"Sometimes shops are torched, vandalized, but then besides the job market family life. In many countries we have denominational family laws in which religious minorities don't have any status. The only way they can conclude a marriage is either go abroad or do it under the auspices of a different religion different from their own. And that has implications, precariousness for all important family matters also in areas very often outside our radar like child custody." (30")

Mr. Bielefeldt said there is need to overcome fear by building trust based on respect for human rights.

He suggested that there should be trust-building institutions working on behalf of religious minorities.

The expert also calls for the separation of state and religion.

Derrick Mbatha, United Nations.

Duration: 1'37"

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