Comments by David G. Littman, NGO Representative to the United Nations in Geneva: Association for World Education (AWE) and the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ)
The following joint statement was delivered on behalf of the three NGOs named (AWE /IHEU /WUPJ) and the text was prepared by their representatives.
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ASSOCIATION FOR WORLD EDUCATION
INTERNATIONAL HUMANIST AND ETHICAL UNION
WORLD UNION FOR PROGRESSIVE JUDAISM
United Nations Human Rights Council -13th session (1-26 March 2010)
Joint Statement by David G. Littman – Friday (15:45pm) 12 March 2010 (21st meeting)
President (Chair): Ambassador Alex Van Meeuwen (Belgium)
Item 3: Promotion and Protection of all human rights: Freedom of religion or belief
[The words in brackets and smaller type were not spoken in the 2 Â¾ minutes allowed]
Minarets and Murder
We thank Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Asma Jahangir for her
Report and outstanding work. We are dismayed however by the increasingly strident attacks on freedom of expression in this Council, made in the name of religious freedom by the OIC, and in particular the gross exaggeration of issues such as the recent Swiss vote to ban the construction of new minarets, while the Council is failing to address many real issues of religious freedom, such as the murder of Christians in Egypt and Pakistan, the very recent massacre of over 500 Christians in the Plateau State, Nigeria, and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians of Iraq.
Our Christmas Day joint Appeal requested the OHCHR “to take the necessary measures” to save the ancient Christian and other non-Muslim ethnic-religious of Iraq, being systematically cleansed from their homeland.
Sir, minarets are not central to Islam, any more than spires are to Christianity. Banning the construction of new minarets does not impede in any way the ability of Muslims to practise freely their religion, so why the uproar about a democratic Swiss vote when the OIC allows so much human rights abuse in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere to go unchallenged?
And why have we heard no condemnation from the OIC and the Council of the call by Libya for a ‘Jihad’- a Holy War against Switzerland? This is a “threat” against a Member State, forbidden by the UN Charter (Art.2:4): [“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the UN.”]
And how to stop the ongoing persecution of Christians, Mandeans and other minorities in Iraq; of Bahais in Iran and now in Egypt; of Copts in Egypt; and of Ahmadis and Christians in Pakistan? How does the OIC propose stopping the constant attacks on churches and the murder or arrest of priests, pastors and worshipers in several of these countries? The OIC condemns Islamophobia on the slightest grounds, but makes no effort to do the same for Christianophobia, and rampant Judeophobia in the media in their own countries.
Surely, Mr President, these are the questions the Council should be asking under the heading of freedom of religion.
[Sir, after the Swiss vote the High Commissioner stated on 1 December 2009: “I hesitate to condemn a democratic vote”, but added, in regard to Switzerland with its exemplary democratic system – “I urge people everywhere to take this issue of discrimination extremely seriously.” A day before Ms. Jahangir stated:
“This vote reminds us that no societies are immune to religious intolerance” If this be “religious intolerance” then democracy is truly doomed.]
To conclude, Mr President, the Swiss people have given a coherent example of true democracy in reminding us all of article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the “right to freedom of opinion and expression,” and article 21:3 on genuine elections. [“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by a secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”]
In the words of that great American President, Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago : “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”
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