UN Defamation Resolution Threatens Freedom of Religion

Over the past decade several actors on the UN scene have been passing resolutions against “Defamation of Religion.” These resolutions condemn anything which offends “religious sensibilities” as racism and hate-speech. Unfortunately the resolutions provide support for blasphemy and similar laws, like the ones which have been used to brutally suppress dissent and religious minorities in Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and elsewhere.

Not content with passing non-binding resolutions, the Defamation bloc is attempting to redefine international treaties to make this legal concept binding across the world. The treaty provisions in focus are Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which calls for governments to protect against “incitement.” This would set up a conflict between the freedoms of speech and religion, and a concept of ‘human rights’ that includes being free from ‘defamation of religion’. Religious ideas would be protected instead of people.  One religion would be protected from the expression of contrary views instead of victims of aggression and violence. If this pseudo-legal concept becomes enshrined in international law it could have devastating effects on the freedom of religion and the spread of the gospel all over the world.

Jubilee Campaign remains strongly committed to religious freedom and to the minorities who are always the first to suffer when religious freedom is curtailed. Because of that we are glad to join with Alliance Defense Fund and several other Christian NGOs in asking the UN to protect helpless religious minorities not the entrenched interests who will be the only beneficiaries of a global blasphemy law.

The ADF news release is below with links to the consultation paper which Jubilee Campaign contributed to. We hope that you will be praying and that you stay informed on this critical issue for religious freedom the world over.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ADF joins other groups to urge United Nations to protect religious expression in civil rights covenant
Christian groups submit paper expressing concern over any reinterpretations that could silence religious speech
Tuesday, October 05, 2010

UNITED NATIONS – The Alliance Defense Fund together with several other Christian groups submitted a consultation paper Thursday to a United Nations human rights body urging it not to reinterpret language in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in a way that could turn Christian speech into “hate speech.”  Christian Legal Fellowship, Jubilee Campaign, World Evangelical Alliance, and Advocates International joined the ADF paper.

“Christians should not be punished for expressing their beliefs. A novel reinterpretation of language in the convention–by those charged with safeguarding it–would endanger that type of free religious speech,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Piero Tozzi. “What’s at stake here is the ability of Christians to be able to share freely their belief that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation without fear of reprisal by any government that has signed on to this covenant.”

Every year at the United Nations, a so-called “defamation of religion” resolution is introduced at the General Assembly that critics regard as an attempt to muzzle evangelization. They see review of the language of the ICCPR as a related attempt to advance that agenda.

The paper, submitted by ADF attorneys at the invitation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, expresses concern that language used to describe the goals of the review process differs from actual language in the ICCPR and sets up a potential clash between “hate speech” and freedom of speech.

“[Our] fear is that this change…would ‘stack the deck’ in favor of a conclusion in favor of vague ‘hate speech’ codes–or its kin, ‘defamation of religion’-type persecutions–that will result in restrictions upon legitimate freedom of expression and upon the ability of minority groups to challenge reigning religious and political orthodoxies,” the paper states. “In other words, if the issue to be examined is defined as ‘the prohibition of incitement to national, racial or religious hatred’ in the abstract and without reference to the incitement of violence, then one sets up an unwarranted and counter-productive clash between ‘hate speech’ codes and ‘freedom of expression.'”

The paper concludes by urging the human rights body to protect religious expression, interpret “incitement” in a manner that protects religious minorities from “actual, imminent harm,” and reject the call for vague “hate speech” codes that penalize speech that merely makes the listener uncomfortable.

In July, the United Nations granted ADF special consultative status, which allows ADF attorneys to attend and intervene at treaty and convention drafting meetings and help craft language that affirms religious freedom, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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Prayers for Pakistan: 2 Pastors Shot Dead Outside Courthouse

The recent report of 2 Pastors murdered outside of a courtroom reveals the manipulation of the blasphemy lawby extremists to target Christians and the government failure to provide adequate protection to religious minorities under threat  despite forewarning of the event. Please lift your prayers for the family and community of the Pastors and for the safety of those still in Faisalabad and vulnerable to the rising tensions.

The full details of the story are below. Please consider sending in a letter to  your Congressmen and Senators protesting the lack of security for Christians as well as the general failure of the Pakistani government to protect Christian, Ahmadi, and Hindu communities from violence. A sample letter can be found below. You can locate the name and address of your Representatives by visiting www.house.gov andwww.senate.gov.

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Your prayers are needed in light of an increasingly threatening environment for Christians and other minorities in Pakistan. Reverend Rashid Emmanuel, 32, and his 30-year-old brother Sajid Emmanuel, falsely accused of creating a derogatory pamphlet about the Prophet Muhammad, were shot and killed on July 19 while being led in handcuffs under police custody back to jail after their hearing.

Christian Lawyers’ Foundation President Khalid Gill told Compass News Direct that the two bodies bore cuts and other signs of having been tortured, including marks on their faces, while the brothers were in police custody. It is believed by many Christian and human rights advocates that the attack was premeditated by protests the month before in Faisalabad, yet adequate protection was not provided for the suspects. Mounting violence and tension threaten the Pakistanis well-being and ability to live in freedom. Our prayer is that the government would step in to control the situation as they have promised they would do.

The prime suspect in the shooting is Khurram Shahzad. According to the details described in the FIR on July 01, 2010, Muhammad Ashraf, accountant of Khurram, brought a hand written pamphlet from city bus station and showed it to him, saying some people were passing them out at city bus stop. Khurram was originally a Muslim friend to Rashid and Sajid and served in the United Ministry Pakistan organization started by the two Pastors. In June, 2010, the brothers requested Khurram to discontinue his work with the organization. Khurram was enraged and warned them that there would be dire consequences.

When Khurram read the pamphlet thoroughly and also noticed that the names were the two Pastors, he immediately informed his proprietor and later put the matter with the Faisalabad trade association and religious leaders. Without investigating the facts, the religious leaders registered a blasphemy case against the two Christian brothers under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code on charges of distributing handwritten pamphlets containing disgraceful remarks against Prophet Muhammad.

According to the Center for Legal Aid and Assistance Settlement (CLAAS), Muslim extremists were actively protesting in Waris Pura, the part of Faisalabad where the two brothers lived and where nearly 100,000 Christians reside, as far back as July 10-more than a week before Rashid and Sajid were murdered. The initial protests, led by Muslim religious leaders, involved chanting for the death sentence of the Pastors and burning tires in the streets. The protesters broadcast announcements from surrounding mosques on July 11, spreading word that Christians were responsible for disgracing their Holy Prophet and called a protest of about 400 together in all.  Police security was there to control the mob, but the local residents were very aggressive, constantly demanding the death of Rashid and Sajid. High officials of Faisalabad were aware of this situation, but failed to arrange the proper security for the Emmanuel brothers and their family.

During the trial, handwriting experts notified police on July 14 that signatures on the pamphlets did not match those of the accused. The two leaders of United Ministries Pakistan believed they would be exonerated soon thereafter.

The shootings led to riots in Faisalabad. The entire event was reminiscent of the Gojra attacks from August 2009, where nine Christians were burnt alive, many were injured, and more than 120 Christian homes destroyed by a Muslim mob who were enraged about allegation that a Christian in a nearby village had defamed Islam.

According to National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), 35 Christians and Muslims have been killed extra judicially in connection with allegations involving blasphemy since 1992. Minorities Concern of Pakistan reports that since 1987 at least 1035 men and women including Muslims, Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus have been accused though none of the allegations sustained or sentence was held by the higher judiciary of the country.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the murders of the Pastors publicly on Tuesday, July 20, calling for immediate steps to arrest the culprits, expressing sympathy for the family, and stated that the life of every person was sacred and no-one could be allowed to take law into his own hands. He made no mention of repealing the blasphemy laws that allowed for incitement of this violence.

The blasphemy laws in Pakistan require the death penalty for anyone proven guilty of blasphemy. While there has never been an instance of execution in the court system, these extrajudicious killings occur frequently as in the case of Rashid and Sajid. Moreover, the laws are abused by Muslim extremists to get rid of anyone who stands in their way.

Asia News reports that Christian couple Nosheen and Leonard D’Souza, along with Professor Anjum James Paul face death threats for their work documenting the violence in Gojra in August 2009 and their report entitled “Burned alive: the fate of Christians in Pakistan.” Another case presented by Continental News on July 10reports that a Muslim youth responsible for shooting a Muslim friend over a girl is accusing a Christian friend of killing the other youth in the Punjab Province of Pakistan. The community in the area is allowing the accusation to advance because, according to Azhar Kaleem, General Secretary of the Pakistan Christian Lawyers Foundation (CLF), local Muslim villagers were jealous of the Christian’s family because they had done so well with their cultivation of their land.

The constant reaction of Muslim fundamentalists is to use the blasphemy laws as justification for violence against the suffering minorities in Pakistan and it needs to stop. Please join us today in writing a letter appealing for a more harmonious inter-faith society for Pakistan.

Sample Advocacy Letter

Dear Congressman/Senator _________:

In light of the recent extrajudicial execution of 2 Christian Pastors in Pakistan, we request the urgent response of the United States government and the Pakistani government to commit to adequately protecting Pakistan’s Christian, Ahmadi, and Hindu religious communities by providing security for those on trial for blasphemy and removing section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which victimizes religious minorities on counts of blasphemy.

Secretary Clinton’s recent visit to Islamabad announcing $500 million in aid projects to Pakistan on July 19-the same day as the murder of the two Pastors-illustrates the striking impunity that continues to go on, yet the Pakistani government still receives U.S. government funds.

The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act (also known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill) is tied to a goal of “combating terrorism and violent radicalism, both inside Pakistan and elsewhere” in Section 5, authorizes funds for projects that promote “respect for human and civil rights” in subsection (f) (iv). Human and civil rights include the right to religious freedom and freedom of worship and belief.

Recent reports show several targeted killings of members of the Christian community by extremists as the government continues to fail in providing adequate protection to these communities. Reverend Rashid Emmanuel, 32, and his 30-year-old brother Sajid Emmanuel, who were falsely accused of creating a derogatory manual about the Prophet Muhammad, were shot and killed by masked men on July 19 while being led in handcuffs under police custody back to jail after their hearing. The killing was premeditated by over a week’s worth of demonstrations. Mobs of 400 Muslims, led by local Imams, gathered to call for the death of these pastors on blasphemy charges.

They are one example of the many minorities who fail to receive adequate protection from extremists and are extra judially killed on charges of blasphemy. The event was reminiscent of the Gojra attacks from August 2009, where nine Christians were burnt alive, many were injured, and more than 120 Christian homes destroyed by a Muslim mob who were enraged about allegation that a Christian in a nearby village had defamed Islam.

We appreciate the remarks of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari who condemned the murder of the pastors publicly on Tuesday, July 20, calling for immediate steps to arrest the culprits and expressing that no-one could be allowed to take law into his own hands; however, the President should take one step further and repeal these poisonous blasphemy laws. Moreover, the United States should grant no more funding to Pakistan’s government until they have shown they will protect their religious minorities and work towards repealing these abusive and biased laws.

Sincerely,

Cyprus Statement: Nigeria

Jubilee Campaign supports the Religious Liberty Partnership statement in the Cyprus Statement on Nigeria.


Cyprus Statement on the Crises in Northern Nigeria

Issued by the Religious Liberty Partnership

March 2010

As members of the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) meeting in Larnaca, Cyprus, we are deeply concerned by the continuing loss of life in violence that has affected northern and central Nigeria since 1999, and particularly, the recent murders of hundreds of men, women and children in Plateau State.  We stand with our brothers and sisters in Nigeria who seek the restoration of justice, rehabilitation, reconciliation, and peace in their nation, and who uphold fundamental human dignity and rights, including religious freedom.  We specifically call on all Christians worldwide to respond to this appeal for prayer and action in recognition that we are One Body united in Christ.

The RLP acknowledges

  • Nigeria’s leading role in peace keeping operations on the African continent, most recently in Darfur.
  • The stated commitment of the Federal Government and National Assembly to investigate and bring an end to the violence in Nigeria.
  • The preservation of constitutional democracy and the prevention of a power vacuum, a total breakdown of law and order or even a return to military dictatorship despite the challenges engendered by President Musa Yar’ Adua’s prolonged illness.
  • That the Church in Jos, Plateau State, representing all ethnic communities, is making every effort to care for and meet the humanitarian needs of all religious and ethnic groups.
  • That the Church in Nigeria is committed to the Biblical response of non-retaliation to violence.
  • The Federal Government’s initiation of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), where Christian and Muslim leaders are working together for peace, reconciliation and an end to religious conflict.

The RLP calls on the Nigerian government

  • To urgently launch an investigation into the army’s inadequate enforcement of the curfew, and its failure to provide protection to vulnerable communities in remote areas of Plateau State.
  • In view of the grievous consequences of recent security and intelligence lapses, to suspend Saleh Maina, General Officer Commanding the Third Armored Division, pending an investigation into the reasons for these failures, and into serious allegations of partisan behavior on his part
  • To review and adjust the current security arrangements for Plateau State, strengthening the security apparatus.
  • To ensure that all of Nigeria’s religious communities enjoy freedom of religion, including the right to manifest and propagate their beliefs as enshrined in Article 38.1 of the Nigerian Constitution, and in international statutes to which Nigeria is party.
  • To track down the planners and perpetrators of violence, bringing them swiftly to justice, and thereby contributing towards ending impunity.
  • To ensure that the National Assembly applies any changes to the constitutional provisions that promote the indigene/settler dichotomy on a national basis, as this is a national issue.
  • To ensure that victims of violence receive timely and adequate compensation, regardless of their religious affiliation.

The RLP calls on the Nigerian church and religious leaders

  • To continue to promote and practice non-violent responses to attacks, in line with Biblical principles.
  • For the Nigerian Christian Diaspora, to stand in solidarity with, and take action to assist, their brothers and sisters who are suffering religious liberty violations in their home country.
  • For the spiritual leader of Nigeria’s Muslims, Sultan of Sokoto, to continue to publicly denounce the killings of civilians in Dogo, Nahauwa, Ratsat, Zot and Byei villages in Plateau State, and to call on those responsible to embrace reconciliation.

The RLP calls on the worldwide church

  • To stand with our brothers and sisters in Nigeria in prayer, and to provide long-term practical humanitarian support, pastoral care and trauma counseling, particularly those who have lost family and loved ones, livestock and livelihoods.
  • To pray for the health of the Nigerian President, and for wisdom for the Acting President, who face many responsibilities and challenges at this time.
  • To engage with Nigerian diplomatic missions in their respective countries, challenging them to ensure the Nigerian government takes timely and effective action to tackle abuses of human rights and religious freedom.
  • To call upon the international community to support an international fact-finding human rights investigation into religious violence and repression in northern Nigeria.
  • To support a justice monitor to track the progress of prosecution and trial of perpetrators in the legal system in order to ensure that  justice is both done and is seen to be done.

The RLP commits

  • To support efforts to ensure the religious rights of all Nigerians, including the rights to freely change one’s beliefs and to manifest and propagate these beliefs, as per Article 38.1 of the Nigerian Constitution.
  • To support credible international, regional, and local efforts to end hostilities, resolve conflict, and seek an enduring peace.
  • To support local and international initiatives for peace-building and youth economic empowerment across the faiths that would engage the youth in gainful activity, rendering them less susceptible to extremism and conflict.
  • To call for accurate and unbiased reporting on Nigeria by the international media, and for clear and speedy corrections of any errors likely to enflame an already tense situation.
  • To call on the Church worldwide to partner with the Nigerian Church in extending assistance to victims of violence.
  • To call for all of our constituencies, including the Nigerian Diaspora and the Church worldwide, to pray for the Church in Nigeria as it seeks to respond in a Christ-like manner to religious liberty violations.

Members of the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP):

Note:  select websites are listed for prayer resources and additional information)

 

  • Advocates International, USA:  www.advocatesinternational.org
  • All India Christian Council, INDIA: www.indianchristians.in/news
  • China Aid, USA:  www.chinaaid.org
  • Christian Solidarity Worldwide, HONG KONG: www.csw.org.hk
  • Christian Solidarity Worldwide, NIGERIA:  www.cswng.org
  • Christian Solidarity Worldwide, UNITED KINGDOM:  www.csw.org.uk
  • Danish European Mission, DENMARK:  www.daneu.dk
  • Friends of the Martyred Church, FINLAND:  www.martyredchurch.net
  • HMK, SWITZERLAND:  www.hmk-aem.ch
  • Hilfsaktion Märtyrer Kirche, GERMANY:  www.h-m-k.org
  • International Christian Concern, USA:  www.persecution.org
  • International Institute for Religious Freedom, GERMANY, SOUTH AFRICA, SRI LANKA:  www.iirf.eu
  • Jubilee Campaign, USA:  www.jubileecampaign.org
  • Norwegian Mission to the East, NORWAY:  www.nmio.no
  • Middle East Concern, MIDDLE EAST:  www.meconcern.org
  • Open Doors International, THE NETHERLANDS:  www.opendoorsuk.org
  • Release International, UNITED KINGDOM:  www.releaseinternational.org
  • Rule of Law Institute, BULGARIA: www.ruleoflawinstitute.bg
  • Set My People Free, EGYPT: www.petitiononline.com/2010smpf/petition.html
  • The Voice of the Martyrs, CANADA:  www.persecution.net
  • World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, GLOBAL:  www.worldevangelicals.org/commissions/rlc

The Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) is a collaborative effort of Christian organizations from around the world focused on religious liberty.  The RLP seeks to more intentionally work together in addressing advocacy and in raising the awareness of religious persecution globally.  Members of the RLP are primarily involved (that is the majority of their time, personnel, and resources) with ministry to persecuted Christians and/or on religious liberty issues in whatever context and strategy.  For more information on the Nigeria Statement or on the Religious Liberty Partnership, contact Brian O’Connell, RLP Facilitator at:  Brian@REACTServices.com; +1 425-218-4718.