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Humanists call for review into Christian persecution to be broadened to other groups

Alice Roberts leads the signatories for Humanists UK.

The global review into the persecution of Christians announced by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in December must be broadened to include other persecuted groups such as the non-religious, Humanists UK and Humanists International (newly renamed from the International Humanist and Ethical Union) have said today. The call comes in an open letter published in the Sunday Telegraph today, and follows on from a similar letter from three of the world’s leading experts on freedom of religion or belief which was published by the paper last week.

Today’s letter has been signed by Humanists UK President Alice Roberts, Vice Presidents Jim Al-Khalili, Shappi Khorsandi, and A C Grayling, and Humanists International President Andrew Copson. It reads:

It is correct to say that our country in recent years has a growing reputation as a principled advocate for the human right of religion or belief globally. If we want to keep that reputation, however, it is vital that the Government should not narrow the scope of that work.

Christians are persecuted in many countries – and their persecution must end – but so too are followers of every other religion. Also persecuted are humanists and other non-religious people: 30 countries have some form of the most serious or brutal persecution against the non-religious up to and including the death penalty. A further 56 have serious social or legal discrimination, such as forcing the non-religious to comply with ‘family law’ as controlled by religion, or mandatory religious instruction in schools with families unable to opt-out.

The Government’s present independent review of the persecution of Christians should either be broadened to include all violations of the human right to freedom of religion or belief or additional reviews into the plight of those groups should be commissioned – and that should include the non-religious.

The UK has one of the highest proportions of non-religious people in the world and our culture is a cradle of the modern humanist tradition. If our Government does not commit to standing with the nonreligious globally, as much as with all other victims of persecution, who will?

Around 30 countries have some form of the most serious or brutal persecution against the non-religious, up to and including the death penalty. A further 56 have serious social or legal discrimination, such as forcing the non-religious to comply with ‘family law’ as controlled by religion.

Threats to the freedom of the non-religious come from a wide range of sources, from individuals and groups wishing to censure freedom of thought, or criticism particularly of religion, through to powerful nations seeking to outlaw and criminalise any perceived negative discussion or criticism or portrayal of religion.

Last week UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Ahmed Shaheed and the preeminent international human rights academics Nazila Ghanea and Sir Malcolm Evans similarly called for the review to be broadened, writing:

‘…couching this review even more broadly, and in the context of persecution against those of all religions and beliefs (including those of no religion), will greatly enhance its effectiveness internationally.

‘Seeking to protect some from persecution necessarily requires seeking to protect all from persecution. Upholding full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief (which includes the freedom of worship) would enhance its enjoyment by all, whether believer, non-believer or ambivalent.’

Notes:

For more information contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or 07 393344293.

Read Humanists UK and Humanists International’s letter in the Sunday Telegraph: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2019/02/17/lettersbritain-can-have-better-transport-without-wasting-money/

Read last week’s letter by international human rights academics: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2019/02/10/lettersremoving-backstop-wont-make-mays-deal-acceptable/

For more information about our international campaigns visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/international-campaigns/

Humanists International is the new name for the International Humanist and Ethical Union. The change happened on Friday this week.

About Humanists UK

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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