July 28, 2010, 11:27 a.m.
One of the fundamental responsibilities of a government is to protect the rights of its minorities and disadvantaged groups. Developing democracies should make efforts to ensure their institutions will safeguard the rights of those who are less likely to benefit from the state's resources. Failure to do so can have disastrous consequences for a society, as political and economic inequalities among marginalized groups can lead to political instability and violence. Minority Rights Group International has released its annual report: State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010. The report examines the human rights situation of minorities and indigenous peoples in every major world region.
Many religious communities also face difficulties such as lack of citizenship or being unable to adhere to their customs and practices and build places of worship due to national religious registration laws. In Egypt, the government requires all identification papers to list religious affiliation, but restricts the choice to the three officially-recognized religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The Baha’i are thus unable to obtain identification papers because they refuse to lie about their religious affiliation and are deprived of access to employment, education, medical and financial services.
Since 2001, a number of countries, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, have either introduced or amended their religious registration laws.