The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Wednesday expressed concern over reports that religious minority groups from around the world have faced discrimination because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The USCIRF has accused Pakistan of increased stigmatization of Shias in recent weeks because of some of the earliest patients to test positive there were Shias. It has also blamed India and Cambodia for doing the same with Muslims. USCIRF also mentioned that religious communities have been harassed and accused of bringing COVID-19 to their countries.
“COVID-19 does not discriminate based on religion or creed. Around the world, individuals of every faith and every denomination have been infected. It is time to stop scapegoating religious minorities - as we have witnessed by the Chinese Communist Party - and instead unite against this pandemic,” noted USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins.
In addition, local authorities in South Korea have filed a lawsuit against the Shincheonji Church, alleging that it undermined public health measures, even though the Ministry of Health and Welfare stated publicly that the church has cooperated with the government’s efforts.
“Governments around the world are undoubtedly busy responding to the public health crisis, but they still have an obligation to respect and protect religious freedom, especially for minority communities during and following this crisis,” USCIRF Vice Chair Gayle Manchin said.
Earlier on Tuesday accused the Balochistan provincial government of "scapegoating" the already vulnerable Hazara Shi'a community for this public health crisis.
"We are troubled that government officials in Balochistan are scapegoating the already vulnerable and marginalized Hazara Shi'a community for this public health crisis. This virus does not recognize religion, ethnicity, or border and should not be used as an excuse to discriminate against a single community" stated USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava.
In its 2019 Annual Report, USCIRF noted an increase in discrimination against certain religious minority groups, and recently released a factsheet about the effect of COVID-19 on religious freedom. USCIRF has also called on all governments to release religious prisoners of conscience during the pandemic because of the heightened risk of infection in prisons.
Presently, there are around 1,513,935 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, which has led to the death of around 88,433 people. Along with it, around 329,731 people have reportedly recovered. Leading the number of global positive cases of coronavirus, the United States has become the new epicentre of the pandemic surpassing China, Italy, and Iran.