The United States has announced that any NGO in India that comes up with ways to promote religious freedom will be given a grant of $493,827 (approximately Rs 3.2 crore).
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour under the US Department of State announced a similar grant for Sri Lanka, as well.
The department said the organisations that apply must develop an early warning system to reduce “religiously-motivated violence and discrimination” and implement programmes to mitigate conflict between minority and majority groups.
Their proposals also need to include ways to “counter hateful or discriminatory public messages with positive messages” through print or social media or traditional methods such as loudspeakers and community gatherings and to educate civil society and journalists about legal protections for religious freedom.
In Sri Lanka, the department seeks to “ensure that authorities at all levels of government effectively implement national laws and policies protecting religious freedom”. The country’s Constitution states that “every person is entitled to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice”.
However, it gives Buddhism the “foremost place” among the country’s religious faiths and commits the government to protecting it, the notice read. As a result, non-Buddhist religious groups have reported discriminatory restrictions imposed by local government officials on religious minorities. The state department asked NGOs in Sri Lanka to counter this.
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor will announce the recipients of the grants after applications are screened. The department supports more than 28 democracy, human rights and labour programmes in South and Central Asia. The countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhastan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.