Saturday, October 11, 2008

What Are You Afraid Of?

Photo of Christians in Iraq, courtesy of CNN.com

Just read about Christians fleeing the Iraqi city of Mosul due to the religious bullying that goes on far too often in the Middle East. As a Baha'i, I stand in solidarity with my Christian brothers and sisters who are simply trying to exercise their freedom to believe in peace. It is a strange and paradoxical mentally that protests even the slightest alleged offense against one's own faith while simultaneously refusing to tolerate the faith of others. My question for those who engage in efforts to coerce people into sharing their beliefs is this: What are you afraid of? People who are confident in the truths they live by to not feel the need to force them on others. Do you really think that threatening your fellow human beings will inspire any thinking person to embrace your faith? No religious community in the 21st century can have legitimacy if it does not respect freedom of conscience! The Baha'i International Community put it this way:

"Over fifty years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights boldly proclaimed the inherent dignity and the equal rights of all members of the human family. Guided by the vision of equality for all, the Declaration enshrined the fundamental right of every human being to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Despite the international community's unanimous1 adoption of this Declaration and its codification in subsequent instruments of international law,2 the world bears witness to persistent intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, the proliferation of violence in the name of religion, the manipulation of religion in the interest of political ideology, and increasing tensions between religion and State policies.3 The rising tide of religious extremism has fuelled these developments, threatening security, human development, and efforts towards peace. Widespread violations of this right -- most often targeting women and minorities -- have continued. Given the interdependence of human rights, such violations have compromised, among others, the right to education, employment, peaceful assembly, citizenship, political participation, health, and at times, life itself. Indeed, the promise of freedom of religion or belief for all remains one of the most contested and pressing human rights of our time. The freedom to hold beliefs of one's choosing and to change them is central to human development as it makes possible the individual's search for meaning -- a distinguishing impulse of the human conscience. As such, the Bahá'í International Community applauds recent efforts by the United Nations to include cultural and religious freedom in its conceptual framework and evaluation of human development.4 Equally significant has been the United Nations' affirmation of the interrelatedness of development, security and human rights and fundamental freedoms,5 setting the stage for an earnest re-examination of the role of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion in the pursuit of a peaceful, prosperous, and just society."

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