Fifty-third session
Agenda items 11, 17 and 19


In our work on our annual review of armed conflicts (Armed Conflicts Around the World: A Country by Country Review now being published by the Parliamentary Human Rights Group) we have found that many of the 34 full blown wars and 20 near-wars involve the use and abuse of religion for political purposes. This is true in the wars in Afghanistan, Armenia/Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Burma, Burundi, Chechnya, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Iran, Israeli Occupied Territories and Southern Lebanon, Kashmir, Mexico, Moluccas, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tibet, Uganda and in the near wars and violent social unrest in Algeria, China (the Uigars), India, Kosova, Pakistan, Phillipines. The reports of the special rapporteur (E/CN.4/1997/91 and Add.1) cite isolated incidents in many of these countries with no discussion of the underlying wars and the political manipulation of religion as part of that war.

One example of the manipulation of religion as part of a larger agenda is in a situation not addressed by the rapporteur - - the struggle of the Moluccan people to uphold the rights given them in the Round Table Conference Agreements of 1949. The Moluccan people have resisted Javanese rule since the new government of Indonesia seized the Republic of South Moluccas in violation of the 1949 Agreement. In recent years there has been an increased effort in the Moluccas to resolve the situation and a renewed international diplomatic effort by representatives of the Moluccan people. In response, Indonesian authorities have been encouraging larger-scale transmigration of Muslim Javanese into Moluccan areas by granting them special privileges. These migrants have fomented violence against the Christian Moluccans, especially in West Kallmantan where churches have been burned and people killed.

The Javanese Muslims are also trying to disseminate discord betweeen the Christian Moluccan and the Moslem Moluccan villages which for centuries have lived peacefully together as fellow Moluccans with a cultural obligation to live in harmony and a common aspiration for freedom. The strategy uses economic privileges given to Muslim Moluccans by the Javanese and, most ominously, Javanese attacks against the Christian Moluccans as infidels. A genocidal birth-control policy seeks to limit Christian Moluccan births also plays into new tensions as Indonesia seeks to divide and conquer.

In the larger Kashmir-India war, the government of India seeks to convince the international community that the problem in Kashmir is Islamic fanaticism supported primarily from outside Kashmir. Nothing could be farther from the truth -- even though the majority of Kashmiris are Muslim this war is raging because India refuses, now with 600,000 to 700,000 armed troops, to implement a succession of Security Council resolutions establishing a process for determination of the status of Jammu and Kashmir based on the free expression of the Kashmiri people in a United Nations administered plebiscite. Jammu and Kashmir is not a state of India but is disputed territory. Attempts by India to encourage non-Muslim factions against Muslim Kashmiris have not effected the underlying question. The political leadership of the Muslim and non-Muslim Kashmiris is the All Parties Hurriyet Conference, which in its recent reorganization established a 21- member council in Jammu with many non-Muslim leaders including its president Karan Singh. Three leaders of the Pandit community will be part of a further expansion of this council.

IED/HLP is pleased with the new emphasis in the United States government that this long conflict be resolved as well as the offer of the new Secretary General to mediate. This offer should be strongly supported by the Commission on Human Rights, taking into account that representatives chosen by the Kashmiri people should participate in all negotiations.

We also wish to draw to the Commission's attention a bill before the United States Congress addressing violations of freedom of religion in China, including manipulation of religion by Chinese authorities in Tibet. Clearly, the situation in Chinese-occupied Tibet can not be understood outside the context of Tibetan religion and culture and the role of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In that context, the Chinese policies in Tibet must be considered ethnocidal. We hope other governments and UN bodies will follow the example of this proposed legislation which seeks to deny travel documents and any government funds to the government's "parallel" organizations that usurp the legitimate religious leaders and associations.

IED/HLP is convinced that the work of the Special Rapporteur could be strengthened by analysis of the context of many situations of religious intolerance and by alerting the international community when situations are leading to war.