WASHINGTON, DC – Throughout history, mistreatment of minorities – whether ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural, regional, ideological, sexual, or other – has fueled violence and devastated societies worldwide. Egregious cases in the last century include the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, the Khmer Rouge killing fields in Cambodia, and the genocide in Rwanda.
The abuse of minorities, and reactions to it, often are linked to fault lines in conflicted societies. Minorities tend to experience economic inequality and political marginalization. This negative trend shows no sign of waning. While international treaties, national laws, more and stronger institutions, improved education, and efforts by organized religious groups to foster respect for minorities can help to ameliorate the problem, collective efforts have so far fallen woefully short.
The problem will not disappear until people stop tolerating intolerance. And recent history – from the indiscriminate killings by the Lord’s Resistance Army in central and eastern Africa to the attacks against Christians by the Pakistani Taliban – shows that bigotry remains deeply embedded.
Moreover, globalization and instantaneous communication technologies have made it impossible to contain conflict within national borders. Domestic economic and political grievances can now buttress discontent across regions and continents.