THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
A FLUSTERED FLOCK OF PIGEONS
Issue: Theological Dialogue – Human Rights & Freedom of Religion or Belief
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
Review: A flustered flock of pigeons, how to talk to
Muslims (and others); Catholics seem unsure, is an article in The Economist,
Objective: Build understanding and support for Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights –Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Encourage the United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media and Civil Society to use these international human rights standards as essential for long-term solutions to conflicts based on religion or belief.
Challenge: In 1968 the United Nations deferred work on an International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance, because of its apparent complexity and sensitivity. In the twenty-first century, a dramatic increase of intolerance and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief is motivating a worldwide search to find solutions to these problems. This is a challenge calling for enhanced dialogue by States and others; including consideration of an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief for protection of and accountability by all religions or beliefs. The tensions in today’s world inspire a question such as:
Response: Is it the appropriate moment to
reinitiate the drafting of a legally binding international convention on
freedom of religion or belief? Law making of this nature requires a minimum
consensus and an environment that appeals to reason rather than emotions. At
the same time we are on a learning curve as the various dimensions of the
Declaration are being explored. Many academics have produced voluminous books
on these questions but more ground has to be prepared before setting up of a UN
working group on drafting a convention. In my opinion, we should not try to
rush the elaboration of a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
especially not in times of high tensions and unpreparedness. - UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
Option: Forty years later may be the time, however complex and sensitive, to consider a new Working Group to draft a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the UN backed Alliance of Civilizations Forum in January 2008 addressed the urgency of the moment; “Never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations.” This includes establishing genuine dialogue within and among all kinds of religions or beliefs, ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism.
Concept: Separation of Religion or Belief and State – SOROBAS. The starting point for this dialogue is the First Preamble
to the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable
rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice
and peace in the world. It suggests
States recalling their history, culture and constitution adopt fair and equal
human rights protection for all religions or beliefs as described in General
Comment 22 on Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
UN Human Rights Committee,
Extracts: Extracts are presented under the Eight Articles of the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Examples of extracts are presented prior to an Issues Statement for each Review.
1. 1 Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practices and teaching.
1. 2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.
1. 3 Freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
A flustered flock of pigeons
How to talk to Muslims (and others); Catholics seem unsure
When 138 Muslim scholars sent an open request to leaders of the Christian world, from Catholics to Methodists, for a theological dialogue, they knew they were setting a cat among the pigeons. It was a fair bet that senior Christians would soon be looking over each other’s shoulders, anxious not to be too liberal or too harsh in their reply.
And something like that has happened.
Easily the boldest Catholic response to the Muslim
letter has been an essay by an Australian Jesuit scholar, Daniel Madigan,
published this month. He took seriously the Muslim idea of a dialogue based on
the commands of Jesus of
Important as these commands were, they were not the basis of the Christian faith: God’s love for man was a more basic point, the Jesuit argued. But for all his quibbles, he did engage with the Muslims’ theological views in earnest.
As the largest of the Catholic Church’s religious orders, the Jesuits like to test the limits of dialogue. Before his death in 2004, a Jesuit pioneer of Catholic thinking on Hinduism, Jacques Dupuis, suffered many scoldings from the Vatican’s doctrinal enforcer: then called Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger; now pope.
The Jesuits’ new superior–general, elected this
month, also exemplifies the order’s belief in living “at the frontiers” of
culture: like another recent holder of that office (who fell out badly with the
ISSUE STATEMENT: This article is serious and calls for a serious response. A “third rail” is a term that comes from describing the middle track in an electric railroad. Lexicography is “the scholarly discipline of analyzing and describing the semantic and paradigmatic relationships with the lexicon of a language and developing theories of dictionary components and structures linking the data in dictionaries.” Lexicographers have described a neutral or agnostic position as a “third rail” between theism and atheism.
The description of “third rail” and lexicography is meant to give credit to the seriousness of the article and honor the theological principles and positions of Muslim and Christian scholars over the centuries. The article says the Jesuits like to test the limits of dialogue which exemplifies the order’s belief in living at the “frontiers” of culture. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the UN backed Alliance of Civilizations Forum in January 2008, asked for a frontier of culture to test the limits of dialogue; “Never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations.”
The Holy See and
The seriousness of the moment calls for an option to theological dialogue not yet tried by scholars of the great Islamic and Christian faiths of the world. This option may be to include in theological dialogues International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
To reply click this link to The Tandem Project Country & Community Database: Read the Introduction and scroll down to Article 1.1; Article 1.2; Article 1.3:
The Tandem Project: a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in 1986 to build understanding and respect for diversity of religion or belief, and prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference materials and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. The Tandem Project initiative was launched in 1986 as the result of a co-founder representing the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) at a 1984 United Nations Geneva Seminar, Encouragement of Understanding, Tolerance and Respect in Matters Relating to Freedom of Religion or Belief, called by the UN Secretariat on ways to implement the 1981 UN Declaration. In 1986, The Tandem Project organized the first NGO International Conference on the 1981 UN Declaration.
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights First Preamble reads as follows: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. The principle suggests all States recalling their history, culture and constitution, provide equal protection by law for theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief may be essential for long term solutions to conflicts based on religion or belief.
The Tandem Project Executive Director: Michael M. Roan, firstname.lastname@example.org.
THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUE - HUMAN RIGHTS & FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations