The year 2006 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. In her recent report to the United Nations General Assembly, Asma Jahangir, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, stated that despite the time that has elapsed since the Declaration was drafted, it “seems evident that contentious religious issues have not only evolved but also become more acute in many societies.” In a report submitted to the Commission on Human Rights in late 2004, the Special Rapporteur listed “the continuing violations of human rights of members of certain religious minorities, as well as the still widely applied practice of forced conversion” among the main concerns in the area of freedom of religion. Jahangir said that she considers that “such a practice breaches the strongest and most fundamental part of freedom of religion or belief and should be given greater attention by the international community.”
In May 2005 the Special Rapporteur made an in situ visit to Sri Lanka—a country where the issue of unethical conversions has fueled religious tensions in recent years. Approximately 69% of Sri Lanka's population are Buddhists, followed by Hindus (15%), Christians (8%), Muslims (7%) and others (1%). Despite such a majority, the ethnic conflict which has affected Sri Lanka for decades, and which began to escalate again in December 2005 and throughout 2006-07, has been largely devoid of a religious element: relations between the different religious groups have for some time been relatively peaceful. This religious co-existence has, however, begun to deteriorate, due largely to the issue of unethical conversions and a desire to protect the majority religion.
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