IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. — On the International Day for People of African Descent, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Economic Rights (OSRESCER) called on States to adopt effective measures to promote respect for African-derived religions and religions of African descent, and to protect the integrity of their leaders and practitioners.
The cultural identity of people of African descent is intrinsically linked to the preservation of ancestral knowledge and the community's historical legacy. Traditions and beliefs such as the Lumbalú, Candomblé, Abakuá, Umbanda, and Hoodoo religions are some of many belief systems that originated in Africa. They are part of the intangible heritage of the African diaspora and of the social process of resistance developed by people who were enslaved in the Americas.
In this context, the IACHR noted that it has repeatedly been informed that the lives and integrity of leaders and practitioners of religions of African origin have been targeted and attacked in different States in the Americas. It has also received reports regarding the destruction of temples and sacred spaces belonging to communities of African descent. On this point, the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance specified that States must prevent, prohibit, and punish any restriction or limitation on the use of people's language, traditions, customs, and culture in public or private activities.
Furthermore, the OSRESCER underlined the link between the right of all people to take part in cultural life and the right to freedom of conscience and religion. As the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has noted, the right of all individuals to exercise their own cultural practices must be respected and protected, within the limits of respect for human rights. This particularly implies respect for freedom of thought, belief, and religion. In this regard, it stressed that the cultural expressions of the African diaspora are part of its historical memory, and it is States' duty to promote and preserve their traditions.
Finally, the IACHR called on States to adopt and implement concrete measures to prevent cases of religious intolerance of an ethnic or racist nature against people of African descent.
The OSRESCER is an autonomous office of the IACHR that was specifically created to support the IACHR in fulfilling its mandate to promote and protect economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in the Americas.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.