News in Brief 28 December (PM)

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Religious leaders. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

UN welcomes US move to equally protect atheists and non-believers

A move by the United States to recognise the rights of atheists and non-believers to not profess or practise any religion has been hailed by a UN rights expert.

US President Barack Obama signed the amendments to the International Religious Freedom Act last week.

Believers, atheists, and non-believers must be equally protected, the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, urged on Wednesday.

Many humanists and non-believers are still widely stigmatised and persecuted around the world and in some countries, he warned, the promotion of atheist thought in any form is considered an act of terrorism.

In others, atheism is condemned as blasphemy or apostasy and receives harsh punishment, including the death sentence or attacks by vigilante groups.

The freedom of religion or belief can be upheld only with the acceptance and full inclusion of atheists and non-believers," the Special Rapporteur concluded.

Families in Mosul struggle for food, water, and protection

Thousands of families stuck in the Iraqi city of Mosul are struggling to survive as the battle to retake the city from the ISIL terrorist group continues, the UN says.

So far more than 108,000 residents have fled since the fighting started on 17 October.

Most of them are living in camps operated by the Government and the UN refugee agency, UNCHR.

Those who remain displaced inside Mosul are forced to find whatever shelter they can in the outlying areas of the city, the agency says.

Many risk death from stray mortar rounds and they are in desperate need of food, clean water, blankets, clothes and kerosene for heating.

Civilians in Mosul face a stark choice, UNHCR Representative in Iraq Bruce Geddo noted.

They risk hunger and being caught in a crossfire if they stay in the city, and if they flee, they risk getting killed by snipers and landmines, he said.

Children in northern Mali receive holiday gifts from UN Police

Children in the Château neighbourhood of Gao town in northern Mali have received gifts for Christmas and New Year from members of the UN Police (UNPOL).

Dolls, small cars, balloons, backpacks and more gifts were distributed to the children during an official ceremony at the Regional Directorate for the Promotion of Woman, Child, and Family.

A child is everything for the nation and for all mankind, Chekaraou Aicha of the UN Police in Gao said during the handover.

The police officers are serving with the UN Mission in Mali, MINUSMA.

It's helping to restore stability to the West African country which was plunged into a crisis by a coup d’état in early 2012.

Priyanka Shankar, United Nations.

Duration: 2’49”


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