Christians, no doubt, fall victim to discrimination across the globe, but there’s another group that is increasingly calling out the crimes and offenses that are committed against it: Atheists and non-believers.
TheBlaze already told you about the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s (IHEU) recent report, which found widespread global mistreatment of non-theists. Now, the same organization has approached the United Nations during its Spring opening session and is appealing for attention to be drawn to the global assault that it says is underway against atheists, agnostics and humanists.
Additionally, the group is combating attempts by some Muslim nations to seek out a global blasphemy ban. In defending the rights of these minority groups, the organization is also supporting the freedom of any and all theistic beliefs.
In its report to the international body, the IHEU, a group that represents more than 120 non-theist groups in 45 countries, said that atheists are severely penalized in some states, with the death penalty serving as the most severe ramification for a refusal to embrace God. The submission to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council read, in part:
“The universal human right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as laid down in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent treaties, protects the freedom of conscience of every human being. Just as freedom of religion or belief protects the right of the individual to follow a religion, it also protects the right to reject any religion or belief, to identify as humanist or non-religious, and to manifest non-religious convictions through expression, teaching and practice. Whilst this fundamental right includes the right not to reveal your beliefs or religious identification, and the right not to take part in religious ceremonies, it also includes the freedom to argue for those beliefs in public, and to seek to persuade others of the merits of your beliefs, or the flaws of theirs, through debate and criticism.
“The right to criticize religion is protected also by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Atheist speech is therefore protected by both Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Despite having protection under international law, the atheist collective claims that non-believers are regularly tormented and often face legal hurdles. These issues can range from more benign ramifications to death, depending on the nation these individuals reside in.
While atheists and Christians often clash in the public sphere, there are many sentiments that people of faith will agree with. The document defends the right to both practice — and reject — religion. Additionally, the IHEU’s efforts are aimed at preventing a world-wide ban on the defamation of religion, a sentiment that some Islamic nations have been seeking through the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Reuters has more about calls for a blasphemy ban:
…Earlier this month a top official of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the body would be focusing on getting agreement on criminalizing denigration of religion in coming talks with Western countries.
In November last year, the head of the 21-country Arab League told the U.N. Security Council in New York his organisation wanted a binding international framework to ensure “that religious faith and its symbols are respected”.
The IHEU, and other non-governmental rights groupings, argue that many Muslim governments use this terminology and the concept of “religious blasphemy” within their own countries to cow both atheists and followers of other religions.
The IHEU fears that this designation would empower nations to denigrate both non-believers and those who embrace other faiths outside of the Islamic sphere. The organization specifically called out Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sudans as nations that give the death penalty in cases pertaining to personal beliefs.
The IHEU also argued in its document that religious systems do not have human rights and that individuals do, thus there should be no conflict between “the rights of religion and the right to free speech.” It’s main argument? People should be protected, regardless of what they believe (or don’t believe, for that matter).
“There is no conflict in law between these rights and freedoms,” explained Sonja Eggerickx, president of IHEU. “The conflict arises where national laws oppress the rights to freedom of thought and expression which we all deserve.”
You can read the report in its entirety here.
(H/T: Reuters via Yahoo!)