THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
INCLUSIVE & GENUINE DIALOGUE – IS IT POSSIBLE?
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Issue: New Year’s Call for Inclusive and Genuine Dialogue on Freedom of Religion or Belief
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
Review: New Year’s greetings call for peace on earth and goodwill among people of all nations, a call for a spirit of hope, a common bond for an alliance of civilizations.
The challenge in 2009 is to put this into practice, to find ways to reconcile human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief with the truth claims of religious and non-religious beliefs.
3-14 December 2009 is the 25 year anniversary of the 1984 Geneva Seminar called by the U.N. Secretariat on ways to implement the 1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Did God create us or did we create God? This question may disturb some or even be prohibited by others. It calls for inclusive and genuine dialogue, discussion of taboos and clarity by persons of diverse beliefs. Inclusive and genuine dialogue is between people of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. These U.N. categories are embodied in international law to promote tolerance and prevent discrimination based on religion or belief. Inclusive dialogue is never easy.
Inclusive and genuine dialogue is essential as a first step in recognition of the inherent dignity, equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family and as a foundation for freedom, justice and peace in the world. Leaders of religious and non-religious beliefs sanction the truth claims of their own traditions. They serve their members and maintain institutional structures within their own communities. This inward focus in matters of belief makes a need for inclusive and genuine dialogue hard to understand and accept.
Research from the
In a New York Times 27 December article Heaven for the Godless? Charles M. Blow said; “This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. Jesus said so: “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” The survey suggested that Americans just weren’t buying that. The evangelicals complained that people must have misunderstood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they?
So in August, Pew asked the
question again. (The results were released last week). 65 percent
said-again-that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to
clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The
respondents essentially said all of them.” This may show religious and
non-religious leaders, at least in the
As we are all painfully aware, religious
conflict continues to escalate worldwide whether in the
Surely one of the best hopes for the future of humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the Alliance of Civilizations Madrid Forum said; “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.” A writer in another setting has said, “The warning signs are clear: unless we establish genuine dialogue within and among all kinds of belief, ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism, the conflicts of the future will probably be even more deadly.”
The warning is confirmed by on-going terrorism and growing potential for the misuse of nuclear and biological weapons. This call for inclusive and genuine dialogue includes warnings from the past; an American folk song, a saying from a founder of the nuclear bomb, and reflections on human nature. Are there options to such discussion? Recent high level diplomatic and religious dialogues suggest one option may be initiating a U.N. process to draft a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Whether dialogue can ever be inclusive and genuine is the final warning, Fyodor Dostoevsky – Choice & Freedom of Religion or Belief (See attached documents).
Article 3 of the 1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief is a reminder of the long way we have to go for human rights to be realized for all peoples of the world:
Discrimination between human beings on grounds of religion or belief constitutes an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and shall be condemned as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enunciated in detail in the International Covenants on Human Rights, and as an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations between nations.
American folk song: from the 1960’s.
They’re rioting in
They’re starving in
There’s hurricanes in
The whole world is festering
with unhappy souls,
the French hate the Germans,
the Germans hate the Poles,
Italians hate Yugoslav’s,
South Africans hate the Dutch,
And I don’t like anybody very much.
But we can be tranquil and thankful
and proud, for man’s been endowed
with a mushroom shaped cloud,
And we can be certain that some
lovely day, someone will set the
spark off and we will all be blown
There rioting in
There’s strife in
what nature doesn’t do to us,
will be done by our fellow man.
“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”
Robert Oppenheimer, Trinity 1945 (1)
Robert Oppenheimer was
the director of the laboratory in
In an interview from
1965, Oppenheimer describes the initial reactions as the fruit of their labors,
the very first nuclear bomb (the
The quote is indeed from the Bhagavad Gita (“Song of the lord”). Some suggest it’s a misquote, which would explain the peculiar grammar; but “am become” is not an error but a (poetic) archaism, as in “I am become a name, for always roaming with a hungry heart” (Tennyson, Ulysses). Which in turn might be a trace of French; “je suis devenu las mort”.
Since Oppenheimer was
proficient in Sanskrit from his days at the
If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one. - Bhagavad-Gita, chapter 11, verses 31-33.
REFLECTIONS ON HUMAN NATURE
If men kill out of animal fears, then conceivably fears can always be examined and calmed; but if men kill out of lust, then butchery is a fatality for all time.
Ernest Becker; “Escape from Evil”
What can bind and constrain or what can guide these passions? Is it love or law? Not law because, for one, humans transgress it, and, for another, it is not commensurate with human and inter-human complexity or the mystery of human nature.
Marie Jaanus, Introduction to “The Brothers Karamazov”
Didst Thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil? Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering.
Fyodor Dostoevsky – “The Grand Inquisitor”
ISSUE STATEMENT: Fyodor Dostoevsky in “The Brothers Karamazov” writes about the psychological depth, sensitivity, complexity, and intellectual challenge presented in trying to understand the mystery of human nature. These are the roots of human culture. Literature this great would have a place in helping to create guidelines for equal, fair and practical support for a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project: a non-governmental organization founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project, a non-profit NGO, 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 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project initiative is the result of a co-founder representing the World Federation of United Nations Associations at the United Nations Geneva Seminar, Encouragement of Understanding, Tolerance and Respect in Matters Relating to Freedom of Religion or Belief, called by the UN Secretariat in 1984 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 Tandem Project Executive Director is: Michael M. Roan, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
Goal: To eliminate all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief.
Purpose: To 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 utilize International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as essential for long-term solutions to conflicts in all matters relating to religion or belief.
1. Use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as a platform for genuine dialogue on the core principles and values within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs.
2. Adapt these human rights standards to early childhood education, teaching children, from the very beginning, that their own religion is one out of many and that it is a personal choice for everyone to adhere to the religion or belief by which he or she feels most inspired, or to adhere to no religion or belief at all.1
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:
Should the United Nations adopt an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief?
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: After forty years this may be the time, however complex and sensitive, for the United Nations Human Rights Council to appoint an Open-ended Working Group to draft a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The mandate for an Open-ended Working Group ought to assure nothing in a draft Convention will be construed as restricting or derogating from any right defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights, and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
Separation of Religion or Belief and State
Concept: Separation of Religion or Belief and State - SOROBAS. The First Preamble to the 1948 United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads; “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. This concept
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,
Article 18: protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms belief and religion are to be broadly construed. Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with international characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions. The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reasons, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility by a predominant religious community. Article 18: permits restrictions to manifest a religion or belief only if such limitations are prescribed by law and necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of
Religion or Belief are used to review the actions of governments, religions or
beliefs, non-governmental organizations and civil society under constitutional
systems such as Separation of Church and State,
Dialogue: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the Alliance of Civilizations Madrid Forum said; “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.” A writer in another setting has said, “The warning signs are clear: unless we establish genuine dialogue within and among all kinds of belief, ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism, the conflicts of the future will probably be even more deadly.”
International Human Rights Standards on Freedom or Religion or Belief are international law and universal codes of conduct for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts. The standards are a platform for genuine dialogue on core principles and values within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs.
“1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief”
5.2: Every child shall enjoy the right to have access to education in the matter of religion or belief in accordance with the wishes of his parents, and shall not be compelled to receive teaching on religion or belief against the wishes of his parents, the best interests of the child being the guiding principle.” With International Human Rights safeguards, early childhood education is the best time to begin to build tolerance, understanding and respect for freedom of religion or belief.
5.3: The child shall be protected from any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, respect for the freedom of religion or belief of others and in full consciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the service of his fellow men.