In our struggle for self-determination, many of our brothers and sisters have suffered as they opened up spaces to exercise their communities’ fundamental rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief. Some have lost their lives due to the violence and discrimination that comes with this struggle, with justice remaining far from their reach.

Today, our global community commemorates the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, following the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism held yesterday. By virtue of the United Nations General Assembly’s decision to calendar these annual days of observance, we call on the UN member states – including the Philippines – to address the violence and discrimination that continue to haunt us all.

As primary duty bearers, the state must ensure that its policies do not only make room for tolerance, but actually embrace and respect the diversity of its communities and their people.

Here in the Bangsamoro, we have taken steps to ensure that our peoples’ right to religion or belief is upheld. Late last year, the Bangsamoro Parliament passed a resolution urging all government and private offices within the region to foster non-discrimination in employment on account of religion. As a new set of parliament members are set to take their seats in the regional government, genuine inclusion and representation remains a priority as we continue to work in securing equal rights for all.

It is important for the regional government, along with the national government, to condemn all acts inciting violence and discrimination based on religion or belief. It is only with a collective effort can we ensure the safety of the most vulnerable and give voice to the plight of those who are silenced as we seek justice for the oppressed and marginalized, and build a nation that truly celebrates the diversity of our people.