Blair urged to tackle religious intolerance worldwide
Regional-UK, Local, 11/27/2006
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was urged by a host of leading Christian and religious organizations to tackle issues of intolerance and discrimination on a global scale.
A letter, signed by 24 UK-based religious leaders and faith-based organizations from different traditions, called for a cross- departmental strategy to help eliminate religious persecution around the world.
It recommended worldwide that Blair appoint an envoy for religious freedom and require British embassies to prepare an annual report on local equality and tolerance.
The call coincides with the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief.
It also comes after UK ministers pledged to examine the country's own incitement to religious hatred laws to offer equal protection to Muslims following the acquittal of far right-wing BNP leader Nick Griffin for calling Islam a "wicked, vicious faith." Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), one of the signatories, said that the letter highlights "the violations of religious freedom that are taking place worldwide and outlines fifteen recommendations to the government on ways to assist in countering violations." The recommendations also include the training of Foreign Office and Home Office case officers to ensure promotion of the right to freedom of religion and belief, accurate reporting of religious persecution, and provision of relief and asylum for victims.
The UK government was also urged to support peace and reconciliation initiatives designed to counter religious hatred and promote understanding.
CSW's Advocacy Director Tina Lambert said that 25 years after the adoption of the UN declaration, international efforts to promote elimination of religious intolerance and discrimination "still lags far behind mechanisms adopted in other areas of human rights." "It is time the international community recognizes the need to commit to ensuring the implementation of this declaration," said Lambert, who estimated that upwards of 250 million people are still suffering as a result of their faith.
"On the anniversary of this UN declaration, we hope that those who still suffer so much for exercising this right will be remembered," she said.
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