October 19, 2009
The United Nations is once again on the verge of introducing a resolution that undermines everything the world body supposedly stands for. The ""Defamation of Religions" resolution won't stop the reprehensible and all too common defamation of religious belief worldwide. But it will throttle the religious liberty and personal safety of Christians and some other faith groups. So much for the UN providing a forum to promote peace and safeguard human rights.
The Defamation of Religions Resolution, introduced annually at the UN, seeks to silence words or actions that are deemed to be against a particular religion. It sounds relatively innocuous. However, many who would be tempted to endorse the resolution ought to know that the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), an inter-governmental organization of 57 countries with majority or significant Muslim populations, has been the driving force behind it. And the OIC's goal is anything but peaceful.
Many Christians living in Muslim-majority countries are already severely impacted by restrictive laws - especially those living under strict Shariah law. From the right to worship freely to the ability to share the gospel, the Defamation of Religions Resolution (in years past called the "Defamation of Islam" resolution) threatens to justify local laws that already marginalize Christians.
Although proponents justify the "defamation of religion" concept as protecting religious practice and promoting tolerance, it really promotes intolerance and human rights violations of religious freedom and freedom of expression. These resolutions have empowered repressive government and religious extremists to suppress and punish whatever they deem to be offensive or unacceptable speech about a particular favored religion or sect.
In fact, blasphemy laws in some countries have been used to justify actions that selectively curtail civil dissent, halt criticism of political structures, and restrict the religious speech of minority faith communities, dissenting members of the majority faith, and persons of other religious faith or no faith. Under these laws, criminal charges have been levied against individuals for defaming, denigrating, insulting, offending, disparaging and blaspheming Islam, often resulting in gross human rights violations.
Two months ago, for example, Muslim extremists rampaged for several days through a Christian area in Gojra, Pakistan. The violence killed at least seven Christians, caused 19 injuries and left more than 100 houses looted and burned, according to Compass Direct News.
The rioting was touched off by an unsubstantiated rumor of "blasphemy" of the Quran. Muslims use blasphemy laws in Pakistan against Christians and other minorities in land and other disputes. Under these laws, no evidence is required to accuse and have someone arrested on a charge of blasphemy.
The persecution of Christians goes far beyond Pakistan, and their plight may worsen if the resolution is approved at the UN this fall. An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation.
Policy experts at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, however, believe there is a real opportunity to defeat the resolution this year. Some members of Congress and non-profit organizations will be urging countries to join the U.S. and vote against it.
Open Doors USA is helping to lead the advocacy effort at the United Nations to prevent this non-binding resolution from passing. As part of its "Free to Believe" campaign, Open Doors will lobby key countries, organize a petition drive for Open Doors supporters to campaign against the resolution, and speak to the media.
For more on the campaign, go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org. A Free to Believe petition invites signers to "Say NO to the Defamation of Religions Resolution."
As Americans, we have enjoyed a long tradition of religious liberty. The Defamation of Religions Resolution is a blow against religious freedom.
You can make a difference in the lives of thousands of persecuted believers. It is crucial that this resolution is defeated. We need to stand in the gap for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Dr. Carl A. Moeller is President/CEO of Open Doors USA. Open Doors works in the world's most oppressive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ's light in dark places.