Canada Announces Support for Religious Freedom in Pakistan

April 11, 2014 - Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today concluded a successful visit to Pakistan where he announced two projects to be supported by the Religious Freedom Fund.

“Pakistan is a country with a multi-faith and multicultural character, which is similar in ways to Canada’s,” said Bennett. “We remain very concerned by repeated incidents of religiously motivated violence in Pakistan and the callous disregard of extremists for the rights of individuals of all faiths to practise their religion in peace and security.”

The two projects, which promote dialogue and greater recognition of Pakistan’s religious diversity, will encourage discussion within the Pakistani Parliament and broaden awareness of religious freedom.

“Terrorist attacks against Pakistan’s religious and ethnic communities highlight the need for the Pakistani government to take swift and unerring steps to bring terrorist groups, including those that equip, train and deploy them, to justice,” said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. “Canada will continue to work with its allies to help the people of Pakistan address the challenges they face and to encourage freedom throughout the region.”

The Religious Freedom Fund, which is managed by the Office of Religious Freedom at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, aims to increase the capacity of organizations in various countries to directly address violations of freedom through a variety of activities, including awareness-building initiatives, legal and legislative training and support for the promotion of freedom of religion and pluralism.

A backgrounder follows.

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
Twitter: @FreedomReligion and @DFATDCanada
Facebook: Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom

Backgrounder - Two Projects Funded by Religious Freedom Fund

Leaders of Influence Initiative

This two-year project ($1,000,000), beginning in 2014, aims to generate debate at the highest level in Pakistan’s policy-making institutions; to implement rights guaranteed by the Pakistani Constitution; to advocate for positive change on inclusiveness issues; and to disseminate resource materials.

The project specifically seeks to advance the implementation of the rights guaranteed in Articles 20 to 28 of Pakistan’s Constitution, the associated rights of religious communities, and Pakistan’s international human rights obligations. The partner organization will set up inclusiveness caucuses within the Pakistani Parliament and in Pakistan’s provinces; facilitate the establishment of a National Commission for Human Rights; provide sensitivity training to influential members of the media; develop an advocacy strategy for policy change; develop and disseminate resource materials; and hold regional workshops on inclusiveness throughout Pakistan.

State of Minorities and Freedom of Religion in Pakistan

The objective of this one-year project ($200,000) is to document injustices faced by non-Muslim Pakistanis and to examine the status of freedom of religion among Pakistanis, who are guaranteed this right under Pakistan’s Constitution. The project deliverables will include research reports, video recordings of testimony by members of religious minority communities, consultations with stakeholders and informed policy advocacy with parliamentarians. Participants in the project will seek to identify practical approaches to increase awareness of the plight of religious minorities by liaising with local journalists, activists and academics.