The suffering of persecuted Christians around the world is exacerbated by the failure of UN bodies to fulfil their obligations to uphold religious freedom, a damning report has claimed.
The 27-page report, starkly entitled The UN’s Failure to Promote and Protect Religious Freedom, argues that concerns about the protection of vulnerable religious minorities are lost amid tugs of war with Muslim-majority countries and, separately, pro-gay, pro-choice and pro-euthanasia groups. It argues that converts to Christianity are put especially at risk by the UN’s “straying” from its original mission to uphold human rights.
The report, published by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, which “builds alliances and engages in legal advocacy to protect and promote religious freedom throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas”, criticises the UN for failing to label the crimes committed against religious minorities by Islamic State as “genocide”, a move that would facilitate the prosecution of perpetrators. However it notes the cost of setting up an international criminal tribunal, adding that the budget for the body investigating atrocities in the former Yugoslavia has increased 500-fold since 1993.
It notes that the UN Security Council held a special meeting in 2015 on ISIS’ crimes against approximately 30 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The lack of a special meeting on ISIS’ violence against religious minorities – which it says includes more than 10,000 deaths – “is especially glaring”, it says.
The membership of the UN’s Human Rights Council – among them Saudi Arabia and China – includes “states that perpetuate human rights abuses, including abuses of the right to freedom of religion,” it says. Of the current 47 members, 13 appear on this year’s World Watch List of the nations where Christians face severest persecution, compiled by the charity Open Doors. In addition, five members are classified “Tier 1 Countries of Particular Concern” by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The report quotes USCIRF commissioners Katrina Lantos Swett and Mary Ann Glendon as saying: “Their presence on the [Security] Council makes a mockery of its mission.”
Concern is also voiced about 2011’s Resolution 16/18 on defamation of religion, which had been championed by a number of Muslim-majority countries, and which the report says was too ambiguous and threatened “the related freedoms of expression and religion”. It also cites an instance in 2015 when wording that would have strengthened protections for at-risk minorities was blocked by various Muslim-majority countries, despite efforts by Britain. The council was guilty of “partisan posturing”, it says, which is evident in the body’s disproportionate focus on criticising Israel.
The report also takes issue with the human rights reports given by member states to other member states known as the Universal Periodic Review. The review process fails to prevent states from paying lip-service to good practice “while continuing their abuse of human rights, including religious freedom”, it says, citing Myanmar’s defence of its laws discriminating against non-Buddhists, China’s continued prosecution of Christians, and Indonesia and Pakistan rejecting recommendations to repeal harsh blasphemy laws.
The Organisation of Islamic Countries complained that a proposed annual report on religious freedom would not be culturally sensitive.