UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly has adopted a resolution designating Aug. 22 as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.
The 193-member world body adopted the resolution by consensus Tuesday. It was co-sponsored by Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland and the United States.
The resolution expresses serious concern at "continuing acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals, including against persons belonging to religious communities and minorities."
It reiterates that "terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group."
The resolution invites all countries, U.N. agencies, civil society, the private sector and individuals to observe the international day, which will be observed for the first time this year.
Poland's foreign minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, told the assembly before the vote that "the world has been experiencing an unprecedented rise of violence against religious communities and people belonging to religious minorities."
He said the recent attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Easter Sunday attacks on churches in Sri Lanka "have reminded us in a tragic way that the freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and that hatred towards religious groups may lead to mass killing of innocent people."
Czaputowicz said reports from civic groups estimate that "one third of the world's population suffers from some form of religious persecution."
In addition to attacks, he said, in some countries even practicing religion at home is banned and in others members of religious minorities are refused funerals. In still others, he said, minority religions and their adherents are targeted.
"The right to freedom of religion or belief is a universal right of every human being," Czaputowicz said. "This right is a cornerstone of many other rights. Any acts of violence against people belonging to religious minorities cannot be accepted."
He said the international day will honor victims and survivors from all religions who "too often remain forgotten" and seeks "to raise awareness of the importance of respectful religious diversity and inclusion."