Some countries used the COVID-19 pandemic to target religious minorities last year, a federal commission revealed on Wednesday.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan federal commission, released its 2021 Annual Report on Wednesday. Among its findings, USCIRF said that some governments targeted religious minorities through misinformation campaigns or with disproportionate restrictions during the pandemic.
USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin, who is also the wife of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), told reporters on a Wednesday press call that “in many cases, these [public health] measures complied with international human rights standards,” but in some places they did not.
“There were countries that blamed COVID-19 on a particular religion,” adding, they used the pandemic “as an excuse,” she said.
In Sri Lanka, for example, the report said, authorities required the cremation of those who died from COVID-19, including Muslims, “for whom the practice is religiously prohibited.”
However, the World Health Organization found there is a lack of evidence to support the claim that the cremation of deceased COVID-19 victims is necessary “for public health reasons.” The report said that Sri Lanka’s requirement was lifted earlier this year.
The report added that authorities in Vietnam arrested members of the Ha Mon religious group, accusing them of “sabotaging implementation of solidarity practices.” In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, officials blamed Shi’a religious communities for the spread of COVID-19, “and subjected some neighborhoods and localities to stricter lockdown measures.”
Johnnie Moore, USCIRF commissioner, told reporters that anti-Semitism in Europe and other parts of the world increased as the virus spread.
“We saw all over the world, the Jewish community in particular targeted,” Moore said, adding that “egregious” and “unconscionable tropes” blamed the Jews for the pandemic.
Read more at Catholic News Agency