Theses for a lecture for a closed-door meeting of the CDU/CSU fraction’s Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid (Led by: Erika Steinbach, MP) in the German Parliament (“Deutscher Bundestag”) on February 23, 2015 in the Ambassy of the Free State of Bavaria in Berlin on the topic “Religious Freedom and Democratic Development”. (Invitation as PDF-File)
The Lack of Commitment to Religious Freedom as Indicator #1: The global View
- How the Jewish religious minority was dealt with was the best indicator of the situation regarding human rights in the Third Reich.
- How Christians, Jews, Shiites, and atheists are dealt with is the best indicator of the situation regarding human rights in Saudi Arabia.
- How Christians, Jews, Sunnis, Baha’i, and atheists are dealt with is the best indicator of the situation regarding human rights in Iran.
- How Christians, Jews, Shiites, Ahmadiyyas, and atheists are dealt with is the best indicator of the situation regarding human rights in Pakistan.
- How Hindus, Christians, and Muslims are dealt with is the best indicator of the situation regarding human rights in Buddhist Sri Lanka.
- How Christians, Yazidis, and Shiites are dealt with is the best indicator of the situation regarding human rights in IS areas in Syria and Iraq.
- That Greece has not completely become a part of the community of shared values within the EU is best shown through its limited religious freedom, for the European Court for Human Rights condemns Greece on account of no other reason more frequently.
The Lack of Commitment to Religious Freedom as Indicator #2: the Islamic World
- The Arabellion has been unable to become an expression of true democracy without a call for religious freedom.
- The attempt to introduce democracy fails when religious freedom is not seen as a component of democracy, as Egypt, for instance, has demonstrated.
- In Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, etc.: There is little hope for the return of permanent, stable, and peaceful conditions in these countries, among others, because no one has religious freedom and the protection of religious minorities on the agenda. In the case of IS and other Islamist movements, the persecution of religious minorities within and outside of Islam is a part of their DNA. The first Islamist writings, dating from the 1920’s, for instance by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, revolve around who is an unbeliever and, for that reason, who should in no case become a citizen. In the case of Maududi, this applied equally to Ahmadiyya Muslims as well as Christians.
- For a long time, Erdogan improved many things in Turkey, such that it appeared that he had given up the Islamism of his early days. He has not been able to get beyond himself to grant religious minorities religious freedom, in particular Christians. This has been the case, even though the EU, for instance, has very clearly and repeatedly demanded this. Erdogan’s actions could have been taken by everyone as evidence that he has remained an Islamist in his heart. An Islamist can simply not advocate religious freedom. (This is not meant to dispute the fact that Erdogan’s Kemalist predecessor government restricted religious freedom much more radically, that there has been progress under Erdogan and that the largest opposition party, as heirs of Kemalism, is still not to be trusted in matters of religious freedom.)
- The reverse is the case with the circumstances surrounding the new President of Indonesia, who long advocated religious freedom. For a decade, he ruled together with a Christian as Vice-Governor, who automatically took over the office of Governor. This was a good indicator for seeing an overall improvement in human rights.
If Religious Freedom is trampled under Foot, then everyone suffers in the End
- The Third Reich shows that initially Jews were persecuted. However, in time, everyone was endangered. As a result, denigrating a neighbor for having contact with Jews became increasingly easy. Limiting the religious freedom of religious minorities quickly leads to adherents of majority religions being affected and doomed.
- The apostasy laws in Pakistan are a modern example of this. They were originally made for Ahmadiyyas and Christians. However, in the meantime they largely affect Muslims. Muslims almost always – even in the sense of these mistaken laws – wrongly denounce other Muslims.
Human Rights are a Unit and are inextricably linked
- There is not a country to point to in history or in the present where religious minorities have been or are oppressed and where otherwise the human rights situation was or is in order.
- Religious minorities are often at the same time ethnic or social minorities, with the result that not only religious freedom is violated when they are discriminated against or oppressed. Christians and Buddhist Dalits in India are a good example.
- Human rights form a unity within human dignity and are closely linked. It is, practically viewed, not the case that only one human right is violated in an isolated manner. One and the same act can simultaneously violate a number of human rights, for instance when a woman who is a member of a religious minority is tortured. This simultaneously violates women’s rights, religious freedom, and the prohibition against torture.
- Religious freedom is tied most closely to freedom of conscience and freedom of opinion. However, religious freedom is also tied to freedom of the press, the freedom to assemble, and the right to a fair trial, for example.
- As is the case with freedom of the press, freedom of conscience, and the freedom of opinion, religious freedom can never only be a private right. Rather, it is based on a right expressed in public, as is made clear in several respects in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (public exercise, public propagation, change of religion). What would it mean for an individual to have his right to hold an opinion privately at home or to formulate products for the press at home but not be able to disclose them?
- Part of the battle against human rights violations is first of all concentrating on particularly severe and proportionately frequent human rights violations. For that reason, one can also speak about Christian persecution, even though one is against the persecution of every religious minority and advocates indivisible religious freedom for all.
Conclusion: Trust no one who speaks about human rights but does not advocate the religious freedom of others!