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http://www.tandemproject.com.
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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

Universal Periodic Review reports in six languages

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/PAGES/BRSession1.aspx

If reports below blue bar do not open, click to access these reports in the master link above

Universal Periodic Review - Brazil

Only contributions submitted in one of the United Nations official languages are admissible and posted on this webpage

Date of consideration: Friday 11 April 2008 - 9.00 a.m. - 12.00 p.m.

National report 1 :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Compilation of UN information 2 :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Summary of stakeholders' information 3 :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Questions submitted in advance

Outcome of the review :

Report of the Working group :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Decision on the outcome :

E only

Report of the eight session of the Human Rights Council :

A|C| E | F | R | S

Related webcast archives

Main Country Page: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/BRIndex.aspx
Inter-active Dialoguehttp://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/BRWebArchives.aspx


First Cycle Brazil Universal Periodic Review in April 2008 as Preparation for the Second Cycle Brazil Universal Periodic Review in May 2012. It is NOT an official  submission to the UN for a Universal Periodic Review

Prep for 2nd Cycle 13th Session – UPR & Freedom of Religion or Belief


BACKGROUND -  HUMAN RIGHTS & FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

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

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.

Freedom of Religion or Belief: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_religion

List of Religion or Belief by Countries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religious_populations

Questionnaire on inclusive and genuine awareness, understanding and use of international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief. http://www.tandemproject.com/survey/


REPORT OF THE WORKING GROUP – RECOMMENDATIONS
RELATING DIRECTLY TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G08/136/68/PDF/G0813668.pdf?OpenElement

There were 15 Conclusions and Recommendations from the Working Group with no direct reference relating directly to freedom of religion or belief.  There was no direct reference to freedom of religion or belief in the National Report and no direct reference to freedom of religion or belief in the fifteen stakeholder letters submitted for the Brazil UPR review.


REPORTS OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/FreedomReligionIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief has not paid a country visit to Brazil.  He did participate in “Addressing incitement to hatred in the Americas,” a regional workshop with two other Special Rapporteur’s and the High Commission for Human Rights, sponsored by OHCHR in Santiago, Chile in November, 2011. (see Feature Stories).


CONSTITUTION OF BRAZIL

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Brazil

The preamble to the Federal Constitution is a brief introductory statement that sets out the guiding purpose and principles of the document. The text reads[1]:


We, the representatives of the Brazilian People, assembled in the National Constituent Assembly to institute a Democratic State for the purpose of ensuring the exercise of social and individual rights, liberty, security, well being, development, equality and justice as supreme values of a fraternal, pluralist and unprejudiced society, based on social harmony and committed, in the internal and international spheres, to the peaceful solution of disputes, promulgate, under the protection of God, this Constitution of the Federative Republic of Brazil.”

The mention of God in the preamble of the Constitution (and later on the Brazilian currency) was opposed by most leftists as incompatible with freedom of religion because it does not recognize the rights of polytheists (like the Amerindians) or atheists. The Supreme Federal Court has ruled that that this omission of the protection of God was not unconstitutional since the preamble of the constitution is simply an indication of principles that serves as an introduction to the constitutional text and reflects the ideological conceptions of the legislator, falling within the scope of political ideology and not of the Law.


CULTURE OF TOLERANCE AND PEACE BASED ON RELIGION OR BELIEF

ADOPTED BY CONSENSUS WITHOUT A VOTE

United Nations Resolution – a Culture of Tolerance & Peace Based  on Religion or Belief

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.

One best hope is Resolution A/HRC/16/18/L.47, a Culture of Tolerance and Peace, introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in the UN Human Rights Council and adopted by consensus in the UN General Assembly as A/RES/66/147 on 19 December 2011. 

Introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference  (OIC)  adopted by consensus without a vote. - Resolution A/HRC/16/18/L.38, Geneva, March 24 2011

Recognizes that the open public debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national and international levels can be among the best protections against religious intolerance, and can play a positive role in strengthening democracy and combating religious hatred, and convinced that a continuing dialogue on these issues can help overcome existing misperceptions.

Calls for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue for the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on respect for human rights and diversity of religions and beliefs, and decides to convene a panel discussion on this issue at its seventeenth session within existing resources.

Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC) Mr. Zamir Akram  [English] 10 minutes Saudi Arabia Mr. Ahmed Suleiman Ibrahim Alaquil  [English] [Arabic] 1 minute Norway Ms. Beate Stirø [English] 2 minutes United States of America Mr. Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe [English] 5 minutes Hungary (on behalf of the European Union) Mr. András Dékány  [English] 3 minutes

UN Human Rights Council Panel Statements, Resolution A-HRC-16-18, 2010 General Assembly Third Committee Actions

Introduced by United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) adopted by consensus without a vote – Resolution A/C.3/66/L.47, New York, 15 November 2011

                 UN Third Committee Press Release - Resolution L.47 Adopted by Consensus

                http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/C.3/66/L.47/Rev.1

The Resolution identified as A/RES/66/147 by the General Assembly welcomes the establishment of the “King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural dialogue in Vienna, initiated by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on the  basis of purposes and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and acknowledging the important role that this Centre is expected to play as a platform for the enhancement of interreligious and intercultural dialogue.” 


FOCUS GROUPS ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

Focus Groups on Freedom of Religion or Belief will be proposed to exchange international best practice models on ways to implement United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/66/147. Suggestions for Focus Group Questions:

How will Brazil use UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/66/147 to maintain cultural identity, principles and values in tandem with international human rights law, principles and values on freedom of religion or belief?

In 2009 the Commission Against Religious Intolerance, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) published the Guide to Combat Racism and Religious Intolerance which contained general guidelines for victims of racial or religious discrimination on implementation of article 20 of law CAO No. 7716 that provides penalties of up to five years in prison for crimes of racism and religious intolerance. The U.S. State Department in 2010 reported: “In January 2010 the civil police of the state of Rio de Janeiro established the Office to Combat Religious Intolerance to register and monitor crimes of religious intolerance as well as to provide guidelines concerning proper procedures to police officers and victims. Can this be a model for implementation of A/66/167?

In 1984, the United Nations Secretariat sponsored a two week Geneva Seminar on ways to implement the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief, Seminar on the Encouragement of Understanding, Tolerance and Respect in Matters Relating to Freedom of Religion or Belief (1984) ST/HR/SER. A/16 Geneva.  In 1986, The Tandem Project hosted the first International Conference, Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief,  on how to implement the 1981 UN Declaration.

Discussion included ways to promote tolerance for diversity of religion or belief at a local level. A theist introduced the speaker on Atheism and the 1981 UN Declaration, and an atheist introduced the speaker on Theism and the 1981 UN Declaration. 27 Community Strategies were presented on how to implement the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief at a local level.  1986 International Conference: Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief http://www.tandemproject.com/tolerance.pdf


SEPARATION OF RELIGION OR BELIEF AND STATE

Separation of Religion or Belief and State is a term used by The Tandem Project to express core principles of international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief. UN Member States are mandated with or without separation of religion or belief to ensure their constitutional and legal systems provide effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief to all without distinction at international, national and local levels.

UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLE 

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 Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not favor one religion or belief over another. Human Rights Law protects all individuals from discrimination based on religion or belief. It values the equal rights of majority and minority religions or beliefs, indigenous, traditional and new religious movements. It is a universal moral principle.

GOAL

The right of persons to manifest their own values, cultural identity and core principles based on religion or belief, together with human rights law, principles and values on freedom of religion or belief.

Build awareness, understanding and support at international, national and local levels for a UN Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief as a legally-binding international human rights treaty. 

      HISTORY

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

In 1962The General Assembly adopted a resolution requesting ECOSOC to ask the Commission to prepare a draft declaration and a draft convention on the elimination of racial discrimination. It also adopted a similarly worded resolution requesting ECOSOC to ask the Commission to prepare a draft declaration and a draft convention on the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance. Both resolutions referred in their respective preambles to the desire to ‘put into effect the principle of equality of all men and all peoples without distinction as to race, color or religion. The General Assembly set deadlines for submission of the special instruments on religious intolerance: its eighteenth session (1963) for the draft declaration and its twentieth session (1965) for the draft convention.

In 1968, the United Nations deferred passage of a legally-binding convention on religious intolerance saying it was too complicated and sensitive. In 1981, 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. http://www.tandemproject.com/program/81_dec.htm.

In 1998, the Oslo Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief was the catalyst a for change of title from Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance to Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief   1998 UN Conference Report

In 2006 the 25 Year Commemoration of the 1981 UN Declaration was celebrated in Prague, Czech Republic, sponsored by the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights with contributions from the Netherlands. 1981 UN Declaration – 25 Year Commemoration

In 2012, The Tandem Project will launch a new website, Separation of Religion or Belief and State to encourage implementation of Resolution A/RES/66/167.- “Recognizes that the open public debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national and international levels can be among the best protections against religious intolerance, and can play a positive role in strengthening democracy and combating religious hatred, and convinced that a continuing dialogue on these issues can help overcome existing misperceptions.”

2012 marks the 50th  anniversary of the UN General Assembly request to ECOSOC to prepare a draft convention on religious intolerance, later rescinded due to complexity and sensitivity.

The Tandem Project believes until a core legally-binding human rights treaty, a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief,  is adopted international human rights law will be incomplete.


FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

U.S. State Department 2010 International Religious Freedom Report, Brazil

http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2010/148738.htm

July-December, 2010.  The U.S. State Department is shifting to a calendar year reporting period.  This report covers six months, July, 2010 to December, 2010 and was issued on September 13, 2011.

http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2010_5/168200.htm

Excerpts

In 2009 the Commission Against Religious Intolerance, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), published the Guide to Combat Racism and Religious Intolerance (Freedom Manual), which contained general guidelines for victims of racial or religious discrimination and explained the implementation of article 20 of law CAO No. 7716 that provides penalties of up to five years in prison for crimes of racism and religious intolerance. The manual was distributed to police stations in the state of Rio de Janeiro to advise officers on how to respond to discrimination complaints. Since the guide was published, at least 180 police officers received specialized training. In January 2010 the civil police of the state of Rio de Janeiro established the Office to Combat Religious Intolerance to register and monitor crimes of religious intolerance as well as to provide guidelines concerning proper procedures to police officers and victims. As a result of the new law and specialized training, civil police classified incidents of religious intolerance as such; previously, there was no separate category for religious intolerance. Police stated that the number of complaints dealing with religious intolerance increased, from 22 complaints in 2009 to 35 cases under investigation at the end of the reporting period. Most complaints were from followers of African-based religious groups, such as Candomblé and Umbanda.”

Complete 2010 Report

November 17, 2010

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

There were some reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice; however, prominent societal leaders took positive steps to promote religious freedom.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

According to the Geographic and Statistical Institute of Brazil, the country has an area of 3,287,612 square miles and a population of 193 million. Nearly all major religious groups are present. Many citizens worship in more than one church or participate in the rituals of more than one religion. The 2000 census by the Geographic and Statistical Institute of Brazil indicated that approximately 74 percent of the population identified itself as Roman Catholic. Approximately 15.4 percent of the population is Protestant, an estimated 74 percent of whom are Pentecostal or evangelical, including the Assemblies of God, Christian Congregation of Brazil, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, the Quadrangular Gospel, God is Love, Maranata, Brazil for Christ, House of the Blessing, and New Life. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, and Congregationalists account for most of the remaining Protestants and are centered in the south. In the 2000 census, 199,645 residents identified themselves as belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons); however, the church lists its current membership at approximately one million.

According to the 2000 census, there were 214,873 Buddhists, 2,905 Hindus, and 151,080 adherents of other eastern religions. Japanese-Brazilians, to a limited extent, practiced Shintoism. The census reported 17,088 adherents of indigenous religious beliefs. Members of African and syncretic religious groups such as Candomblé totaled a reported 127,582, while followers of Umbanda totaled 397,431. There were no statistics on the number of followers of Xango or of Macumba; however, the census indicated that members of Afro-Brazilian religious groups totaled 0.3 percent of the population.

The census reported 25,889 practitioners of Spiritualism; however, others estimated that followers of Spiritualism, mainly Kardecists--adherents of the doctrine expounded by Frenchman Allan Kardec in the 19th century--constituted approximately 1.4 percent of the population. An estimated 7.4 percent of the population does not practice any religion.

Reliable figures on the number of Muslims do not exist. The 2000 census reported 27,239 Muslims; however, the Federation of Muslim Associations of Brazil estimates that there are 1.5 million Muslims in the country. There are significant Muslim communities in the cities of São Paulo, Curitiba, and Foz do Iguazu (Argentina-Brazil-Paraguay triborder area) as well as in smaller cities in the states of Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. The community is overwhelmingly Sunni; the Sunnis are almost completely assimilated into broader society. The recent Shi'a immigrants gravitate to small insular communities in São Paulo, Curitiba, and Foz do Iguazu. Sunni and Shi'a Islam are practiced predominantly by immigrants who arrived during the past 25 years from Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. Conversions to Islam increased during the reporting period among non-Arab citizens. There are approximately 80 to 120 mosques, Islamic religious centers, and Islamic associations, many of which are inactive.

According to the Jewish Confederation of Brazil, there are more than 120,000 Jews; 65,000 reside in São Paulo State and 40,000 in Rio de Janeiro State. Many other cities have smaller Jewish communities.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

Article 5 of the constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The criminal code enforces protection of religious freedom.

There are no registration requirements for religious groups, and there is no favored or state religion. Religious groups are free to establish places of worship, train clergy, and proselytize. There is a general provision for access to religious services and counsel in all civil and military establishments. The law prohibits discrimination based on religion.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national or regional holidays: Saint Sebastian's Day, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Corpus Christi, Saint John's Day, Our Lady of Carmen (Carmo), the Assumption, Our Lady Aparecida, All Souls' Day, Evangelicals' Day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Christmas.

Public schools were required to offer religious instruction, but neither the constitution nor legislation defined the parameters. Religious instruction was optional for students. Each school defined the religious curriculum, usually in agreement with parent councils. The law prohibited public subsidies to schools operated by religious organizations.

It was illegal to write, edit, publish, or sell literature that promoted anti-Semitism or racism. The law enabled courts to fine or imprison for two to five years anyone who displayed, distributed, or broadcast anti-Semitic or racist material.

In 2009 the Federal Public Ministry in São Paulo sought an injunction against television stations Record and Gazette to stop them from broadcasting programs that maligned Afro-Brazilian religions. In April 2010 the court dismissed the case on the grounds that the claim was not ready for adjudication.

In July 2009 a civil suit was filed in São Paulo demanding removal of religious symbols from the public areas of federal buildings. A month later judges of the São Paulo Court of Appeals defended the display of a crucifix on the grounds that "it does not glorify Catholicism but rather is testimony of one of the worst trials in history."

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

In November 2009 school authorities dismissed Francisco Albuquerque Santo Filho from teaching at a public school in Taguatinga, on the outskirts of Brasilia, for allegedly obliging his students to participate in Candomblé rituals. He claimed that the activity (dancing) was a cultural exercise with no religious basis and filed a discrimination complaint with the Federal District Public Ministry. At the end of the reporting period, there was no further information on the case.

The government restricted access by nonindigenous persons, including missionaries, to indigenous reserves. Visitors must have permission from the National Indigenous Foundation and an invitation from a member of the indigenous group.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were some reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice; however, prominent societal leaders took positive steps to promote religious freedom.

In 2009 the Commission Against Religious Intolerance, a nongovernmental organization (NGO), published the Guide to Combat Racism and Religious Intolerance (Freedom Manual), which contained general guidelines for victims of racial or religious discrimination and explained the implementation of article 20 of law CAO No. 7716 that provides penalties of up to five years in prison for crimes of racism and religious intolerance. The manual was distributed to police stations in the state of Rio de Janeiro to advise officers on how to respond to discrimination complaints. Since the guide was published, at least 180 police officers received specialized training. In January 2010 the civil police of the state of Rio de Janeiro established the Office to Combat Religious Intolerance to register and monitor crimes of religious intolerance as well as to provide guidelines concerning proper procedures to police officers and victims. As a result of the new law and specialized training, civil police classified incidents of religious intolerance as such; previously, there was no separate category for religious intolerance. Police stated that the number of complaints dealing with religious intolerance increased, from 22 complaints in 2009 to 35 cases under investigation at the end of the reporting period. Most complaints were from followers of African-based religious groups, such as Candomblé and Umbanda.

In May 2010 retired Rio de Janeiro Civil Police Chief Raul Oliveira Dias Alves was arrested in the Recreio dos Bandeirantes district for allegedly ridiculing the religious garb of a Muslim woman. He subsequently was charged under the religious intolerance law, which provides for up to three years in prison if convicted.

In November 2009 the Ways of Oxum Umbanda Spiritual Center in Nova Iguacu, Rio de Janeiro State, was vandalized, and a month earlier the religious offering that the center's priest (pai de santo) placed at a crossroads was destroyed. Police investigated both cases but were unable to proceed further for lack of evidence.

In July 2009 the Commission for the Defense of Minorities of the Bar Association in the State of Alagoas filed a complaint against a pastor and a member of the International Church of Hope for allegedly vandalizing an Umbanda temple.

In June 2009 in Rio de Janeiro Pastor Tupirane da Hora of the Generation of Jesus Christ Church and his follower Afonso Henrique Lobato were arrested and placed in preventive custody for "intolerance" towards Afro-Brazilian religions. They were imprisoned for posting texts and videos on the Internet that fomented prejudice and violence against Umbanda and Candomblé. They were released a month later on their own recognizance. They continued to await trial at the end of the reporting period.

In June 2009 the Commission against Religious Intolerance presented a report to the Brazilian Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality Policies and to the UN Human Rights Council accusing the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God of actively promoting intolerance of Afro-Brazilian religious groups, especially Umbanda and Candomblé. There were no responses at the end of the reporting period.

In 2008 in Salvador, Bahia State, the state court ordered the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to compensate family members of Candomblé religious leader Gildásia dos Santos for damages related to the death of dos Santos in 2000. The church appealed the Bahia state court decision to the Superior Court of Justice, but in 2009 it upheld the decision ordering the church to pay the family.

Anti-Semitism was rare; however, there were reports of anti-Semitic graffiti, other acts of vandalism, harassment, and threats via telephone and e-mail. Numerous anti-Semitic Web sites continued to operate. Small groups of skinheads, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists operated on the political fringes in Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo states, perpetrating harassment and violence toward Jews and other minority groups. Law enforcement agents monitored these groups.

The Center for Promoting Islam in Latin America in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo State, which has a large Shi'a population, reported frequent complaints of verbal harassment of Muslim women wearing veils in public.

There was no national interfaith movement; however, the National Commission for Religious Dialogue brought together Christian and Jewish groups. In 2007 the Protestant-Catholic Group of Dialogue was created. The Group of Ecumenical Reflection and Interreligious Dialogue supported these groups and promoted dialogue at regional and national levels. The Abraham Path Initiative, an international NGO endorsed by the UN Alliance of Civilizations, sponsors annual "friendship runs" that bring together Jews, Christians, and Muslims in an effort to increase understanding. The first such run was in June 2009 in São Paulo.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. Embassy officials met with many local religious leaders. In January 2010 the U.S. deputy chief of mission visited Kahal Zur Synagogue in Recife, the oldest synagogue in the country, to mark the International Day of Remembrance for Victims of the Holocaust.


REFLECTIONS

The Tandem Project

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 or neither trumps the other. 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 often legitimized for national security and justified by cultural, ethnic, religious or political 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 a 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 believes until a core legally-binding human rights Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief  is adopted international human rights law will be incomplete. It may be time to begin to consider reinstating the 1968 Working Group to bring all matters relating to freedom of religion or belief under one banner, a core international human rights legally-binding treaty.


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.