Don’t downplay freedom of religion and belief, ACDP urges government

parliament ct
Parliament, Cape Town.

“Last year was the worst year in modern history for Christian persecution throughout the world. With this in mind the ACDP notes that religion and belief are conspicuous by their absence in the title of today’s debate,” ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley said in parliament this week.

Speaking in the Human Rights Day debate she said: “Article 18 of the Declaration of Human Rights states that, ‘everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,’ including the right to ‘have or adopt a religion or belief of choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.’

“According to ‘Open Doors’ North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian and then Iraq, the first of 35 countries where Islamic extremism has risen to levels that resemble ethnic cleansing.

“Violent Hindu extremists have now put India on the top-20 list for the first time. And closer to home, militant groups — Boko Haram and al-Shabab in Africa — are described as the “sinister” power behind persecution in four African countries. Two Sudanese Christian men, Mr Telahoon Rata and Reverend Hassan Taour are the latest to be detained by Sudanese authorities and three Egyptian teenagers have been imprisioned for their beliefs.

“Of course Christians are not the only ones persecuted – with ongoing conflicts in countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen, tensions between Sunnis and Shia Muslims, complaints of mistreatment in sunni dominated countries like Saudi Arabia and complaints of discrimination in the Shia dominated states of Iraq and Iran.

“The ACDP welcomes a recent groundbreaking Muslim document — The Marrakesh Declaration — which calls for protection of Christians from persecution. More than 250 Muslim religious leaders, scholars, and heads of states released the Marrakesh Declaration, a 750-word document calling on Muslim countries to grant religious freedom to non-Muslims.

“The ACDP also appreciates the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, who in his Easter message urged the nation to ‘speak out’ over the persecution of Christians around the world. We would also like to commend the USA on its efforts and success in obtaining the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini recently.

“The ACDP calls on the South African government to not only do more through diplomatic channels to intervene and prevent, the killing, torture, enslavement, and imprisonment of Christians around the world – but to ensure that freedom of belief and religion is not downplayed in South Africa.

“This is not to say there will not be contentious issues but with the sanctity of life and freedom to choose as foundational values the difficult decisions can be weighed and taken in the best interests of all who live in South Africa.”