Bahrain Interfaith has welcomed tens of prominent guests participating in “The Conference on the Dialogue of Civilizations in the Service of Humanity”, during 5-7 May 2014. The conference is being held while the country is in deep crises and the people are in deep rift due to the inherent official policy of discrimination against the opposition (being overwhelmingly Shia Muslims which represent the majority of the population), while inciting sectarianism between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims.
This policy of “Divide and Rule” is evident in every aspect of the state formation and it’s policies, including cabinet form up , public employment, military & security recruitment , parliamentary representation, and vital state administrations and services such as housing, education , municipality etc.
This has been documented by the Bahrain Independent Commission Inquiry (BICI), which was appointed by HM The King, in the aftermath of 14th of Feb 2011 which delivered its report on 23 Nov 2011. The King publicly accepted the report and the recommendations during the prestigious ceremony. BICI recommended remedies to the injustice and penalizing the offenders, including those responsible for demolishing 38 Shia mosques in one of the biggest mosque demolition genocides. Not only that justice was not realized ,but the policy of discrimination, exclusion, sectarianism and repression against Shias became rampant , while the offenders are being promoted and the victims are being penalized , including undue trials.
The UN Human Rights Council issued, at its June 2012 session 176 recommendations at the Universal Periodic Review to remedy the deteriorating Human Rights situation; the Government of Bahrain accepted 158 of them. However, Similar to the case of BICI recommendation, the Government did not fully implement them and resorted to selective facial fulfillment.
Reports by major democratic states such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom on Human Rights, Religious Freedoms and Labor Rights, repeatedly documented comprehensive and systematic abuses of human rights , including the religous persecution of the Shia majority.
Well respected international Religious Freedom and Human Rights organizations and bodies, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty Int. (AI), International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, USCIRF, Human Rights First, Frontline for HR Defenders, IFIX, IARF and others, have documented systematic Human Rights violations including religious persecution.
The common element of these policies is the state doctrine that the ruling elite is superior while the rest of Bahrainis are inferior at different stratum where equal citizenship and social justice is absent
Instead of admitting Human Rights violations and addressing the wrong practices , the government persists on denial and resorts to public relations and campaigns. It is unfortunate that Shia Muslims which form up 60-65% of Bahrain’s religious demography according to the United States Commission on Religious Freedom has not been invited to the conference besides a few governmental loyalists who reserve no social, political or religious status amongst the Shia Muslim majority.
Bahrain has a long lasting history of tolerance, openness and moderation. Bahrain, as group of islands at the cross lines of naval routes in the Arabian Gulf, has always been a melting point of migrants coming from different civilizations, religions and races. The fertile interaction , harmony and integration has been a source of innovation that produced one of most glorious civilizations- Delmon- five thousands years ago, where its remains are still noticeable today.
In the spirit of openness, Bahrainis welcomed Islam call voluntarily, when Prophet Muhammed’s envoy Almonder ibn Sawa handed the message to its ruler then Abualala Alhadrmi. At that time there was a very important church at Al Dair village, named after the monastery (aldair in Arabic). Bahrain witnessed the construction of the first church, the first Jewish synagogue and the first Hindu temple in the Gulf , as a reflection of tolerance of nationals and the peaceful coexistence between citizens and expatriates belonging to different religions and civilizations. This has contributed to the thrive of education, culture and arts in Bahrain.
On the other hand Bahraini Shias were victims of sectarian discrimination, marginalization and persecution based on their religious background for decades. Despite the history of injustice and systematic discrimination against the Shia Majority, Bahrainis chose independence instead of being annexed to Iran, in a free referendum organized by The UN in 1970. The choice was in hope, as promised by the rulers then, to an independent state based on equal citizenship and guaranteed Universal Human Rights rights including those related to Religious Freedom. Unfortunately , since independence in 1971, Bahrainis have been victims of all forms of Human Rights abuses
The culmination of this ordeal erupted on the 14th of Feb 2011, amid the atmosphere of the Arab Spring, where the sweeping majority demanded fundamental democratic reforms , in order to bring the country back to the norms of living in harmony and justice.
Instead of responding to the peaceful democratic demands, the regime resorted to the use of power to crackdown the peaceful demonstrations. The government has also resorted to creating sectarian alignments and that has fragmented the national fabric of the population. Until today the pro-governmental press plays a major role in inciting hatred between the national factions
In the tradition of Bahrain’s well known hospitaility, we welcome you and invite you to examine the deformed situation in the island and to address to HM the King of Bahrain the importance of ending all forms of religious persecution. We also invite the participants to address fears of growing Religious Hostility, Terrorism, sectarianism and violence in the region. We also urge the participants in the conference in their meetings with officials to call for a genuine dialogue between social factions leading to achieving the democratic aspirations of all Bahrainis regardless of race, religion or social background.