World Leaders push Freedom of Religion/Tolerance
President George W Bush proclaimed January 16th Religious Freedom Day in a special proclamation from the Whitehouse.
"On this special day," the President said, "I encourage all Americans to renew their commitment to protecting the liberties that make our country a beacon of hope for people around the world who seek the free exercise of religious beliefs and other freedoms."
"Today, as America wages war against terror, our resolve to defend religious freedom remains as strong as ever," said Bush.
The next day in Britain, Prime Minister, Tony Blair, met with religious leaders of all faiths in major conference on tolerance. He told the conference of Christians and Muslims that there is a renewed urgency for greater religious understanding in the wake of the 11 September terror attacks.
"Religious values can be warped or perverted but when people are true to its real value, religious faith can be immensely liberating," Mr Blair said.
In Pakistan, the military government has abolished controversial electoral laws which religious minorities have long complained are discriminatory.
The reforms follow President Pervez Musharraf's speech to the nation on Saturday in which he announced measures to reduce the influence religious extremism.
The law restricting the voting rights of minorities such as Hindus and Christians was introduced in the 1980s by former military ruler General Zia ul-Haq on the demand of conservative Islamic groups.
Meanwhile in China a US consulate spokesperson said: "We have called upon China as a member of the international community to meet international standards on freedom of religious expression and freedom of conscience" in the controversy of a Hong Kong man distributing Bibles.
SOURCES - FULL REPORTS
US Information Service
Human Rights in China/SCMP