On behalf of the American Shia community, we welcome Pope Francis with open arms. We know that this trip will we be both enjoyable and productive for both the American community as well as the international community at large.
Yesterday afternoon Pope Francis landed in the United States to begin a six-day trip through the country. He will be making stops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, PA, and New York, NY. Since his election to the current office, Pope Francis has been an outspoken defender of human rights around the world, drawing attention to global conflict and its effects on innocent people. Pope Francis has been an outspoken defender of the rights of refugees, especially those fleeing to Europe from Northern Africa and the Middle East. Many of these refugees are fleeing the disastrous civil war that is currently raging in Syria. Many of the people leaving their homes in Syria are religious minorities, especially Shia Muslims who have seen this conflict and its offshoots impede on their religious freedom.
Pope Francis has proven to be an avid defender of religious freedom through his speeches, saying “not just a matter of thought or private devotion,” but a “fundamental right of the person” which national and international laws and organizations must “recognize, guarantee and protect” as well as “an indicator of a healthy democracy and one of the principal sources of a nation’s legitimacy”.
The legitimacy of the international community has been weakened as it has largely turned a blind eye to egregious violations of religious freedom around the world. As Shia Muslims continue to suffer from terrorist groups such as ISIS, their plight is largely absent from discussion surrounding the protection of religious minorities. This neglect from the international community only further facilitate the discrimination and violence perpetrated against this group. That is why we at Shia Rights Watch call on Pope Francis to shed light on the discrimination and violence faced by Shia Muslims as a violation of their religious liberties during his stay in the United States.