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Minneapolis -  example for the United Nations of how human rights and freedom of religion or belief can work at a local level. Invitation to Islamic Resource Group and interfaith partners to attend a Minnesota Human Rights Forum for Places of Worship, in preparation for the United States of America Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Human Rights Council.

THE TANDEM PROJECT
http://www.tandemproject.com.
info@tandemproject.com

UNITED NATIONS, 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

Separation of Religion or Belief and State

MINNESOTANS STANDING TOGETHER: A MULTI-FAITH PRAYER SERVICE FOR RESPECT

The Islamic Resource Group (IRG) of Minnesota along with interfaith partners had a prayer service on Tuesday evening 28 September in downtown Minneapolis to show resolve to uphold religious freedom and respect for religious traditions, and respect for the many ways that citizens of the state profess their religious beliefs. Dozens of leaders of diverse faiths and several hundred members of diverse places of worship in the Twin Cities attended. It was a example for the United Nations of how human rights and freedom of religion or belief can work at a local level.

Former Governor Al Quie gave the opening address, followed by Rev. Peg Chemberlin, Executive Director of the Minnesota Council of Churches, Imam Makram El-Amin, Masjid An Nur, and Rabbi David Locketz, president of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association and other leaders.

Sponsoring organizations included: The Minnesota Council of Churches; The Saint Paul Interfaith Network; Saint Paul Area Council of Churches; The Downtown Interfaith Clergy Association; The Islamic Resource Group; The Muslim Christian Dialogue Center at the University of St. Thomas; The Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches; The Interfaith Youth Leadership Council; The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas; The Archdiocesan Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis; The Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning; Interfaith Bridging Initiative; Minnesota Rabbinical Association; Majid Al-Ikhas; Masjid Al-Hijrah; Muslim American Society of Minnesota; United Theological Society of the Twin Cities.

The Islamic Resource Group, local mosques, interfaith and sponsoring organizations participating in Minnesotans Standing Together: Multi-faith Prayer Service for Respect will be invited to participate in The Tandem Project Minnesota Forum for Places of Worship: From the Very Beginning: Education, Religious Beliefs & Human Rights at the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center on Thursday, 28 October 2010 from 4:00-6:30 p.m.


Since 1986 The Tandem Project has built support for Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief simultaneously from top down and ground up, understanding one cannot succeed without the other.  In 1986 top down was  the U.N. Human Rights Commission, now its successor the U.N. Human Rights Council.  The Tandem Project approach from the ground or local level up for national Universal Periodic Reviews & Freedom of Religion or Belief includes; Forums for Places of Worship, Academic Discourse, Schools, Women and Civil Society.

The purpose of the Minnesota Forum for Places of Worship is to support preparation for the United States of America Universal Periodic Review, before the U.N. Human Rights Council on 29 November, 2010. The Forum will discuss how religious beliefs from multi-cultural traditions are taught to children, strategies and obstacles in Places of Worship to teaching children human rights principles on freedom of religion or belief without compromising  faith-based traditions, obligations and responsibilities at a local level to support their governments efforts to implement international human rights on freedom of religion or belief.

The Background below and the attachments: Forum Invitation; Forum Questionnaire; United States Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief; Islam & Apostasy – Opportunity for Deeper Dialogue will be resources beforehand and during the Forum Roundtable Discussion.

Conclusions and Recommendations from the Minnesota Forum for Places of Worship will be sent to the U.S. State Department and the U.N. Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, as support for the United States of America Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief. 


BACKGROUND

Information for exchange of ideas on follow-up to United Nations Universal Periodic Reviews

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

 – First Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law.

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights.aspx

INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

The principal instruments for International Human Rights Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief is Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) and the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

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

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

http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/9a30112c27d1167cc12563ed004d8f15?Opendocument

Article 18: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

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, practice and teaching.
No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.

Freedom of 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.

The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education in conformity with their own convictions.

The Third Rail

International human rights law on freedom of religion or belief protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief, - General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations does not favor one religion or belief over another. This international human rights law protects everyone from discrimination based on religion or belief including, among others; persons of majority and minority religions or beliefs, cross-cultural traditions and values and new religious movements. This is a universal, neutral and impartial principle, not culturally relative. Lexicographers describe similar terminology as agnostic, the third rail on the God idea between theism and atheism.

MANDATE OF THE U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

The U.N. Human Rights Council every three years draft a resolution for the mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief who serves as an independent expert on human rights and freedom of religion or belief through a process known as Special Procedures.
2007 Mandate on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/6/37)
In 2007 the U.N.Human Rights Council mandate for the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/6/37) failed to achieve consensus because of objections by Pakistan and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) over the right to change one’s religion or belief:
9. Urges States:

  • (a) To ensure that their constitutional and legislative systems provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief to all without distinction, inter alia, by the provision of effective remedies in cases where the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, or the right to practice freely one’s religion, including the right to change one’s religion or belief, is violated;

Pakistan speaking on behalf of 57 countries in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)  objected by saying, “It called  for respect for norms about the right to change one’s religion.  The EU draft explicitly urges States to guarantee the right to change one’s religion or belief,  a requirement the OIC could not subscribe to.”

Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU) said over 40 paragraphs in the draft resolution was eliminated in an attempt at consensus with the abstaining states, but consensus over the right to leave one’s religion or belief is inviolable and could not be compromised.  The Resolution (A/HRC/RES/6/37) with recorded votes can be viewed by clicking on this link:

http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/HRC/resolutions/A_HRC_RES_6_37.pdf

2010 Mandate on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/14/11)

In 2010 at the 14th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council Pakistan and the OIC dropped their objections and consensus was achieved on the resolution for the three year mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/14/11).

The U.N. Human Rights Council in 2010 eliminated 9 (a) from the resolution for the mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.  Did the European Union (EU) in a compromise with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) remove 9 (a) to achieve consensus or does consensus signal real change on this issue?
In the opinion of the EU, 9 (a) still applies to the discharge of duties in the 2010 mandate for U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Whether Pakistan and the OIC agrees with this based on their votes to abstain in 2007 needs clarity and may be problematic.

IMPLEMENTING 9 (a)

If the resolution in 2010 includes 9 (a) it will be a significant step forward. This may be the most visible opportunity since 1968 for change on the issue of Islam and apostasy. 
Human Rights Education (HRE) curricula on the provisions of 9 (a) should be written specifically for governments and non-governmental organizations,  religions or beliefs, civil society, schools and places of worship, including for leaders of the Ummah, the family of Islam, in Islamic schools and mosques. 
Implementing 9 (a) must respect the sensitivity and complexity of this issue which was one of the causes of the 1968 impasse in drafting a legally-binding international treaty (History).

  • HISTORY: The United Nations failed to achieve consensus on a legally binding international treaty on religious intolerance, settling instead for the non-binding 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief.

http://www.tandemproject.com/program/history.htm

  • STATISTICS: The United Nations protects all theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. Statistics: builds the case for an  inclusive and genuine approach to implementing human rights and freedom of religion or belief.

http://www.tandemproject.com/program/major_religions.htm

THE TANDEM PROJECT 

1984: The Tandem Project co-founder represented the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) in 1984 at the two week Geneva Seminar called by the UN Secretariat on how to implement the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. In 1986 The Tandem Project hosted the first International Conference on the 1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

1986: Minnesota held the first International Conference on how to implement the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Thirty-five international delegates and thirty-five Minnesota delegates were invited. Minnesota organizations and individuals proposed twenty- seven Community Strategies on how to implement the 1981 U.N. Declaration under: Synopsis, Strategy, Objectives, Program Approach, Obstacles and Outcomes. These Community Strategies can be read on the following link:
Minnesota Community Strategieshttp://www.tandemproject.com/tolerance.pdf

2010: Since 1986 The Tandem Project understanding synergism to mean one cannot succeed without the other, has built support for Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief simultaneously from top down and ground up. In 1986 top down was  the U.N. Human Rights Commission, now its successor the U.N. Human Rights Council.  The Tandem Project approach from the ground or local level up for national Universal Periodic Reviews & Freedom of Religion or Belief includes; Forums for Places of Worship, Academic Discourse, Schools, Women and Civil Society.

Reflections

The First Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads: 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 use of nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction increases. Governments need to consider whether religions and other beliefs trump human rights or human rights trump religions and other beliefs. Can international human rights law help to stop the advance and use of such weapons in the face of this historic truth?

  • QUESTION: Weapons of mass destruction as history teaches are legitimized for national security and justified by ethnic and religious ideology. The U.N. Review Conference on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and studies on biological and cyber weapons demonstrate advances in science and technology is being used to increase their potential for mass destruction. The question is whether an International Convention on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief, elevated and supported equally by the U.N. Human Rights Council and U.N. Security Council, would help offset the risk of weapons of mass destruction. Recognition of the need for synergy to balance rights and security is the foundation for solving this issue.

“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” - Robert Oppenheimer, quote from the Bhagavad Gita after exploding the first atomic bomb, Trinity 1945.

The Tandem Project a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance, and respect for diversity of religion or belief, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference material 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.

Disclaimer: The Tandem Project does not represent the institutions, organizations or individuals in Forum Proposals and is not endorsed by them. Forums are for an exchange information and ideas as a follow-up to United Nations Universal Periodic Reviews.

Documents Attached: Forum Invitation; Forum Questionnaire; United States - Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief; Islam & Apostasy - Opportunity for Deeper Dialogue