Religious tolerance and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms

Press Statement

Lilongwe, 5th November 2019

The United Nations is concerned by the violence that took place in Balaka on 4th November 2019 between Christian and Muslim groups, resulting in at least two persons being seriously injured. Reports that the violence started after two girls were prevented from attending school at M’manga school for wearing a hijab are of particular concern.

The rights to freedom of expression and religion are fundamental rights that ensure human dignity and a functional democracy. Preventing access to services such as education because students choose to wear an expression of their religion goes against these important human rights and international standards on freedom of education. Section 36 (3)(c) (III) of the Education Act (2013) stipulates that: “the school or college shall not impose restrictions of whatever nature with respect to the admission of students, recruitment and appointment of staff.”

Such actions discourage girls from attending school, denying them the right to learn and actively participate in society, at a time when Malawi is focusing on ending child marriage and keeping girls in school.

All forms of violence, including endangering lives and the destruction of private and public property are considered criminal and unacceptable.

The United Nations calls on all Malawians to respect each other’s religious beliefs and engage in peaceful dialogue to resolve differences. We also call on State authorities to ensure that all people of Malawi are able to exercise their beliefs and cultural practices free from persecution and discrimination.

Ms. Maria Jose Torres

United Nations Resident Coordinator

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Currently, there are more than 20 Agencies and specialised organisations of the United Nations active in Malawi which, through their work, contribute to ensuring a better life for the people of Malawi.

For more information, contact: Development Coordination Officer (Programme Communications and Advocacy) in the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Malawi, Phillip Pemba, on 0995271671 or phillip.pemba@one.un.org.

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