Washington (BWA)--The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) opposes a December 2010 "Combating Defamation of Religions" resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly as the resolution is incompatible with the fundamental freedoms of individuals to freely exercise and peacefully express their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs.
The 2010 resolution is the latest in a series of other resolutions brought before the UN by Islamic countries to counter what these countries saw as orchestrated attacks against Islam in Western nations, particularly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
The resolution denounces all attacks upon religious places, sites and shrines in violation of international law, the misuse of registration procedures as a means to limit the right to freedom of religion or belief of members of certain religious communities; and with the limitations placed on religious publications and the construction of places of worship, inconsistent with the exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief.
The BWA and others who oppose this resolution fear that it will amount to an international blasphemy law, similar to those existing in many Muslim countries. These laws are used to silence dissident discourses, to incarcerate political activists and journalists, and thus directly affect the religious freedom rights of non-Muslim minorities in those countries.
Furthermore, it is argued that human rights are meant to protect individuals, not ideas or governments. The idea of protecting a religious system would contradict the protection of basic individual rights like the freedom of expression. Numerous civil society organizations, including Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Secular, Humanist and Atheist groups, have urged the UN to reject resolutions on defamation of religions.
In 2009, the BWA signed a document entitled A Common Statement from Civil Society on the Concept of the "Defamation of Religions." The Common Statement argued that such resolutions provide international support for domestic laws against blasphemy, which are often abused by governments to punish the peaceful expression of disfavored political or religious beliefs and ideas.
On the other hand, the document urged governments to combat violence motivated by bias and hatred and to encourage respectful speech and civil dialogue, while at the same time affirming that freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion are integral to the health of free societies and the dignity of the human person. Finally, it endorsed education and public diplomacy as vital tools in the protection of a peaceful and robust exchange of ideas and beliefs.
From the very outset of the founding of the Baptist faith, Baptists have strongly advocated for religious freedom for all. Baptists understand that the claims for religious liberty as well as the freedom of conscience, opinion, and assembly are linked together. Over the years the BWA has passed several resolutions affirming religious freedom as a fundamental human right. On the other hand, it has often encouraged the respect for all other religious faiths.
The BWA rejects the idea that religious intolerance will go away through the passing of laws restricting the freedom of expression. The BWA favors educational initiatives to promote respect for all religions, and opposes all dissemination of hatred based on religious beliefs, ethnicity, race or any other form of discrimination.