[Subtitled video now available] In a speech to the 12th session of the Human Rights Council on 16 September, IHEU representative Roy Brown called on the Council to do more to combat violence and discrimination against religious minorities, citing the recent murders of Christians in Pakistan, Somalia and Nigeria, the still unresolved massacre of Muslims in Gujerat, and mob violence against the Muslim Uighurs in China earlier this year. He also criticized non-violent discrimination practiced in many Western countries against religious minorities. He reminded delegates that it is individuals, believers and non-believers that have human rights – not their religions or beliefs.
Here is the full text of his speech:
International Humanist and Ethical Union
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 12th Session (14 Sept – 2 October 2009)
Speaker: IHEU Representative, Roy W Brown: Tuesday 15 September 2009
Agenda Item 2: Report of the High Commissioner
Discrimination based on religion or belief
We welcome the report by the High Commissioner and in particular her emphasis on discrimination against minorities. We regret however that she made no specific mention of discrimination based on religion or belief.
We therefore welcome the statement made on behalf of the OIC in this regard, particularly in view of reports we have seen in recent months of Muslims burning churches and of Christians being burned to death in their homes in Pakistan, with the authorities doing little or nothing to prevent it. From Somalia we hear reports of four Christians being beheaded simply for converting to Christianity; from Nigeria of a priest being beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam. From Iran we hear continuing reports of discrimination against Bahais and from Egypt against Coptic Christians.
In many OIC States non-believers and apostates face discrimination, imprisonment and even death.
But it is not only in the Islamic States that religious minorities face discrimination and violence. In India the issue of the massacre of Muslims in Gujerat remains unresolved, and we have more recent reports of churches being burned in Orissa, while in China earlier this year we saw wanton violence directed against the Muslim Uighurs.
We also see non-violent discrimination suffered by religious minorities in many Western countries through the privileges accorded to state churches, and through concordats with the Holy See which privilege the Catholic Church, leading to discrimination against non-Catholics.
Mr President, is it not time that the Council took far more seriously the issue of discrimination based on religion or belief? And is it really necessary, yet again, to remind States that it is individuals – believers and non-believers – that have human rights, not their religions or beliefs.
Thank you sir.