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Religious persecution in China and Pakistan impacts indigenous communities
Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies
Washington, DC
Monday, July 1, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE On June 28, 2013, American Islamic Congress? Project Nur and Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies held an event titled ?Cultural and Religious Persecution in Asia and the Impact on Indigenous Communities?. Panelists included Tenzin N. Tethong, Executive Director of Radio Free Asia (Tibetan Service); Knox Thames, Director of Policy and Research at United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF); Mr. Jun Wang, Chairperson of China Democratic Party World Union; Dr. Thomas Lynch, Distinguished Research Fellow at the National Defense University; Neva Morrison, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the First Peoples Worldwide; Scott Flipse, Deputy Director of Policy and Research at USCIRF; and Senge Sering, President of Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies. Knox Thames, who moderated the event, thanked AIC and introduced the speakers. He said that AIC has been working on the issues of indigenous communities, especially pertaining to the Muslim World, which is very commendable. He also appreciated AIC for holding Rights Summit for the indigenous communities in March of 2013. While introducing USCIRF, he mentioned about religious persecution in different parts of the world including China and Pakistan where state policies are also impacting the indigenous communities. Scott Flipse presented his findings about religious persecution impacting the Rohingya Muslims, Animists and Christians in Myanmar and Indonesia. While referring to his conversation with the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Myanmar (NHRC), he informed about a forceful deportation of the Rohingya Muslims to Saudi Arabia, which could lead to loss of language and cultural base. He also talked about economic marginalization impacting the natives of Sulawesi island of Indonesia.Mr. Jun Wang and his colleagues talked about persecution of Muslims, Christians and followers of Falun Gong in China and accused the communist party of willful neglect and marginalization of the indigenous communities in Xinjiang and Tibet. He said that Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists are being killed, displaced and stopped from religious practices as per state policy. He informed about cruel treatment of some of his party members who promote the cause of democracy and religious freedom in China. Neva Morrison said that indigenous peoples make up the most diverse group across the world and are also most vulnerable. She informed the audience about projects of First Peoples Worldwide that is benefiting indigenous communities in different parts of the world. She presented the case studies from Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Nepal where FPW is helping in restoration of indigenous religious and spiritual sites. She talked about the UN led principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) which has empowered the indigenous communities and given better decision making rights especially when it comes to exploitation of natural resources and their impact on religious sites and burial grounds. Dr. Thomas Lynch talked about the evolving relations between India, China and Pakistan and how it impacts the indigenous communities like people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Tibet. He mentioned about certain areas of India like Nagaland, Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh where state subject rule prevails and which has helped the indigenous communities protect their natural resources and cultural sites. He talked about the situation in Balochistan where indigenous communities are struggling to maintain their right over their mineral wealth. Tenzin Tethong talked about self-immolations in Tibet which have so far failed to gain international recognition and attention of western regimes. He said that Tibetans have chosen to take their own lives instead of hurting the Chinese and infrastructure to protest against cultural and religious persecution. He talked about resource exploitation in Tibet that has led to displacement in large numbers. He talked about China?s growing influence in South Asia and how that impacts indigenous communities in Gilgit-Baltistan, Nepal and Bhutan.Senge Sering talked about religious based target killings, state-led settlement and conversion policies impacting the indigenous communities of Gilgit-Baltistan. He said that on-going political dispute with India, presence of a large Shia and Sufi population, and its utility as infiltration base against India and Afghanistan and sole land route to China are some of the reasons why the region has become the strategic target of control and thereby increasing vulnerability of indigenous peoples. He said that geo-strategic significance of the region has forced Pakistan?s decision makers to intensify settlements in urban parts of Gilgit-Baltistan, and provoke religious hatred and sectarianism which weakens and divides the society. He said that Pakistan was created on the basis of two nation theory which negates the existence and rights of the indigenous communities. He said, ?It is very difficult for the indigenous communities of Pakistan to attain recognition and rights since national identities based on ethnic and linguistic background are seen as negating Islamic teachings and a conspiracy against the Muslim nation?. Following Q&A and lunch, Knox Thames thanked the panelists and speakers for their participation.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Senge Sering
Group: Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies
Dateline: Washington DC, DC United States
Direct Phone: 202 689 0647
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