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Now is the Time





The Tandem Project measures group and individual awareness and understanding of international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief at international, national and local levels. The 1981 UN Declaration, article 2 says “no one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons or persons on grounds of religion or other beliefs.”  The Tandem Project uses a broad definition of “group” to include States, institutions, religions or other beliefs and smaller groups within those broad categories for an Exchange of Information as a follow-up to Universal Periodic Reviews.

Preface – The First Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 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.

Surely one of the best hopes for 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.

There is an increase in dialogue today between religions and other beliefs to embrace diversity, but few persons, less than one percent of any population, ever participate. This is a challenge. The value of such dialogues is proportionate to the level of participation. For civil society increased participation would create opportunities for education on inclusive and genuine approaches to human rights and freedom of religion or belief. 

 In 1968 the United Nations deferred passage of a legally-binding convention on religious intolerance saying it was too complicated and sensitive. Instead, they adopted a non-binding declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. While very worthwhile, the declaration does not carry the force and commitment of a legally-binding international human rights convention on freedom of religion or belief.

Religions and other beliefs historically have been used to justify wars and settle disputes. This is more dangerous today as the possible misuse of nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction increases. Governments need to revisit whether religions and other beliefs trump human rights or human rights trump religions and other beliefs or neither trumps the other; whether culture trumps the universal or universal rights sensitively and with respect trumps culture in the face of this historical truth.



The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Separation of Religion or Belief and State


Issue:  Pakistan – Higher Education & Freedom of Religion or Belief

For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society

Review:  At a Top University, a Fight for Pakistan’s Future, by Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times, April 21, 2010. The Devoted Student, Mark C. Taylor, Op-Ed, New York Times, 2006.

Excerpt: The attack and the anger it provoked have drawn attention to the student group, Islami Jamiat Talaba, whose morals police have for years terrorized this graceful, century-old institution by brandishing a chauvinistic form of Islam, teachers here say.

But the group has help from a surprising source — national political leaders who have given it free rein, because they sometimes make political alliances with its parent organization, Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s oldest and most powerful religious party, they say.

The university’s plight encapsulates Pakistan’s predicament: an intolerant, aggressive minority terrorizes a more open-minded, peaceful majority, while an opportunistic political class dithers, benefiting from alliances with the aggressors.

Review: The Devoted Student, by Mark C. Taylor, Williams College, New York Times Op Ed page on 21 December 2006. This article is about freedom of expression and pressure to be politically correct when teaching about religion or belief on a college campus. Freedom of expression and defamation of religion in the media has become an issue of political correctness and a front page story as a result of the Danish newspaper publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Mark C. Taylor is now Chair of the Religion Department at Columbia University.

Excerpt:  At first glance, the flourishing of religion on campuses seems to reverse trends long criticized by conservatives under the rubric of ‘political correctness.’ But, in truth, something else is occurring. Once again, right and left have become mirror images of each other; religious correctness. Indeed, it seems the more religious students become, the less willing they are to engage in critical reflection about faith.

The warning signs are clear: unless we establish a 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.” From: the New York Times article, The Devoted Student.  


Second Session U.N. Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (5-19 May, 2008)


The Pakistan Universal Periodic Review was held by the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday 8 May 2008 from 2:30 pm. – 5:30 pm  The link below will access these reports in the Pakistan Universal Periodic Review: National Report; Compilation of UN Information; Summary of Stakeholders Information; Questions Submitted in Advance; Report of the Working Group; Related Web cast Archives.

The Pakistan Adopted Universal Periodic Review with reports is available by opening this link:

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process launched by the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 to review the human rights obligations and responsibilities of all UN Member States by 2011. Click for an Introduction to the Universal Periodic Review, Process and News:

The primary international human rights instruments on freedom of religion or belief are: Article 18 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

The 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief: http://www.tandemproject.com/program/81_dec.htm.


The Tandem Project Follow-up builds on twenty-seven Community Strategies, action proposals by organizations in 1986 to implement Article 18 of the CCPR and the 1981 UN Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief: http://www.tandemproject.com/tolerance.pdf

These Community Strategies are consolidated for The Tandem Project Follow-up into three generic proposals on integration, dialogue and education for Universal Periodic Reviews and exchange of information worldwide with organizations on international, national and local levels. 

1. Develop model integrated approaches to International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief at national and local levels to test the reality of implementation as appropriate to the constitutions, legal systems and cultures of each country.

2. Use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as appropriate to each culture and venue for inclusive and genuine dialogue on freedom of religion or belief.

3. Apply International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief in education curricula as appropriate in all grade levels, teaching children, from the very beginning, that their own religion is one out of many and 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.


4. 1 All States shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life.

The Tandem Project Follow-up Recommendations for all Universal Periodic Reviews includes a second recommendation to use these international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief for inclusive and genuine dialogue and a third recommendation on education from early childhood to adulthood. Human rights education (HRE) is critical to begin to promote and protect all religions and other beliefs in early childhood. The third recommendation for early childhood is taken from an address by the Netherlands at the 2006 commemoration of the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

The Tandem Project recommends Pakistan begin curricula in early childhood human rights education that would emphasize simple rhymes, phrases or songs that are easily learned by children as soon as they start early childhood education in their own religious traditions. An example of a human rights rhyme or non-sectarian phrase to accompany a religious traditional song or phrase might be:

Human rights are mighty fine, protecting beliefs like yours and mine.

An example like this, of course, would be accompanied by instruction for adult teachers, explaining why and how such a phrase would be compatible with Islam and how it might sensitively be included in Pakistan religious and cultural traditions. This would transition childhood human rights education into adult dialogue on higher education. The Tandem Project is developing an Exchange of Education – Higher Education, for all academic institutions as a follow-up to their Universal Periodic Reviews.

The government of Pakistan at the UN Human Rights Council speaks for itself and at times for the 57 UN member states that belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), one of only two religious organizations (the other the Holy See) with permanent observer status with the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly. In 2007 Pakistan and the OIC while supportive of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, abstained on a vote by the Council (A/HRC/RES/6/37) extending the mandate by three years, because the resolution touched “concerns of fundamental importance to the members of the OIC,” urging states to guarantee the right to “change one’s religion or belief.” Portugal speaking before the vote said it had “no other option than bringing the draft to a vote, but pledged to take up negotiations again; hoping consensus on the issue could be re-established soon” (Attachment). 

The UN Human Rights Council should continue negotiations on this core religious-political issue to build consensus between international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief and fundamental concerns of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Pakistan following their Universal Periodic Review should increase dialogue with Pakistani civil society on issues in their constitution and legal penal codes, the blasphemy laws and apostasy, not in compliance with international law on freedom of religion or belief. Violence, intolerance and discrimination at the local level, especially in rural areas in Pakistan are reflected in the Stakeholder letters and the US State Department 2008 International Religious Freedom on Pakistan. These are sensitive and incendiary issues based on deeply-held religious beliefs and local customs requiring a long-term commitment to education by the Pakistan government to build awareness, understanding and acceptance at the national and local level with international standards on freedom of religion or belief. These issues set the tone for The Tandem Project Follow-up based on General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.