The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemned the July 1 terrorist attack that killed more than 20 people in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, mostly of Sikh and Hindu faiths. It demanded Kabul protect minorities, and investigate the incident to hold those behind the attack responsible.
The USCIRF, currently headed by Tibetan-American Professor Tenzin Dorjee, is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. It noted in a July 3 press release that the attack, for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility, targeted members of Afghanistan’s minority Hindu and Sikh communities, including Sikh candidate for parliament Awtar Singh Khalsa, who was killed in the attack.
“We condemn this egregious attack against innocent members of two minority faith communities in Afghanistan,” UCIRF Chairman Dorjee is quoted saying in the press release, adding, “This attack is yet another reminder of the crucial link between security and religious freedom.”
Afghanistan’s religious minorities, including Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, and Shi’a Muslims, face an array of challenges, both legally and socially, Dorjee said.
“This despicable act of violence is simply the worst expression of hostility toward these already marginalized communities,” he asserted.
“We urge the government of Afghanistan to fully investigate this incident and to hold the perpetrators accountable. We also urge the government to work to create an environment in which religious minorities can practice their faith freely and live without fear of violence,” Dorjee said.
In its most recent Annual Report, USCIRF found that the security situation in Afghanistan remains unsettled, which negatively impacts religious freedom throughout the country. Attacks against the Shi’a Muslim community and other non-Muslim communities by the Islamic State in the Khorasan Province continued or worsened and religious leaders involved in efforts to fight extremism and bridge the gap between various Muslim groups were murdered by extremists, the report noted.
Dorjee, an associate professor at the Department of Human Communication Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was appointed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to the Commission. He studied at the Sera Jey Monastic University in South India as well as the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, and worked in the Translation and Research Bureau of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharmsala for 13 years.