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Assault on Religious Liberty: July 20, 1937

In Human Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Religious Freedom, United Nations, World Law, Being a World Citizen, NGOs, Track II, Spirituality on July 20, 2021 at 3:17 PM

By René Wadlow

The Nazi Government of Germany had first moved against the Jews, considered as both a racial and a religious group. The Jews had long been a target of the Nazi movement and the attack on them came as no surprise. However, the July 20, 1937 banning of the theosophical movement and of others «theosophically related» in the Nazi ideology was a turning point in Nazi repression.

On July 20, 1937, the Theosophical Society and the related Anthroposophical Society which had been founded by Rudolf Steiner who had been president of the German section of the Theosophical Society were banned. The banning order was signed by Reichsführer Reinhard Heydrich who warned that “The continuation and new foundation of this as well as the foundation of disguised succession organizations is prohibited. Simultaneously I herewith state because of the law about confiscation of property hostile to people and state that the property of the abovementioned organizations was used or intended for the promotion of intentions hostile to people and state.” Thus, all offices and buildings were confiscated.

At the time there was little organized protest. The League of Nations, while upholding tolerance and freedom of thought in general had no specific declaration on freedom of religion and no institutional structures to deal with protests. Now, the United Nations (UN) has a specific Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief of November 25, 1981 which builds upon Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion : this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship or observance.” As with all UN Instruments relating to freedom of religion, Article 18 represents a compromise. One of its achievements was the inclusion of the terms “thought” and “conscience” which quietly embraced atheists and non-believers. The most divisive phrase, however, was “freedom to change one’s religion”.

The Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief took nearly 20 years of difficult negotiations to draft. Preparations for the Declaration had begun in 1962. One of the most difficult areas in drafting the Declaration concerned the rights of the child to have “access to education in the matter of religion or belief in accordance with the wishes of his parents and shall not be compelled to receive teaching on religion or belief against the wishes of his parents or legal guardians, the best interests of the child being the guiding principle.”

The Declaration goes on to state that “The child shall be protected from any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, respect for freedom of religion or belief of others, and in full consciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the services of his fellow men.”

The Declaration highlights that there can be no doubt that freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief and the elimination of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief are of a fundamental character and derive from the inherent dignity and worth of the human person.

The gradual evolution of UN norms on the issue of religious liberty has been a complex process and is often a reflection of bilateral relations among Member States. This was especially true during the 1980s – the last decade of the USA-USSR Cold War. However, the end of the Cold War did not end religious tensions as an important factor in internal and international conflicts.

The 1981 Declaration cannot be implemented by UN bodies alone. Effective implementation also requires efforts by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). NGOs play a vital role in the development of the right to freedom of religion or belief, especially by advancing the cause of those still struggling to achieve this right.

Thus, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) had been active in the late 1970s when the UN Commission on Human Rights moved from New York to Geneva on the formulation of the 1981 Declaration. Since then, the AWC has worked closely with the Special Rapporteurs on Religious Liberty of the Commission (now the Human Rights Council). The AWC has also raised publicly in the Commission certain specific situations and violations. The AWC stresses the need for sound research and careful analysis. Citizens of the World have an important role to play in bringing spiritual and ethical insights to promote reconciliation and healing in many parts of the world.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Il faut sauver Le Kef, la ville au cœur de la Tunisie qu’on oublie

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Track II, United Nations on July 18, 2021 at 8:21 AM

Depuis un an et demi, la pandémie de Covid-19 ravage la terre entière. Le coronavirus ne connaît aucune frontière, il se moque des limites entre États-nations tracées par l’être humain, il frappe partout où il le peut, comme il veut, quand il veut. Dans nombre de pays, les mesures-barrières préconisées par l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé sont appliquées de manière stricte : port du masque, distanciation physique, lorsque ce ne sont pas confinement et couvre-feu. Dans d’autres pays, hélas, les dirigeants ont choisi, pour de pures raisons politiques, d’ignorer le danger, et dans de tels pays, le peuple l’a payé cher mais aussi, bien souvent, les chefs d’État eux-mêmes.

En Tunisie, la première vague du début d’année 2020, causée par la souche originelle de Wuhan, avait été gérée de manière raisonnable. Aujourd’hui, le variant Delta submerge le système de santé, dépourvu d’équipement et de personnel, jusqu’aux vaccins de tous types, créant ainsi une véritable catastrophe sanitaire nationale et offrant à la Tunisie le triste record du taux de mortalité lié à la Covid-19 sur tout le continent africain.

A travers le monde, Tunis a fait appel à sa diaspora. Celles du Canada, de Belgique et de France ont répondu présentes. Mais pour tout le soulagement que leur aide apporte au pays, leur seule intervention sera loin de suffire pour sauver la Tunisie de ce péril imminent.

Et quand bien même. Pour l’heure, l’aide apportée se concentre sur les grandes villes de la Tunisie, que ce soit Tunis la capitale ou Kairouan, Sousse, Hammamet, les grandes villes mais aussi celles que l’étranger connaît le mieux, celles que les touristes aimaient visiter avant la pandémie.

Le monde sait qu’il faut soigner la Tunisie qu’il connaît. C’est bien. A présent, il lui faut soigner aussi la Tunisie qu’on oublie.

Au premier rang des villes oubliées du secours, il y a Le Kef, cette ville de montagne adossée à l’Algérie. Déjà oubliée de Tunis depuis même l’ère Bourguiba, aujourd’hui, Le Kef se débat avec une situation sanitaire devenue intenable. Le seul hôpital de la ville est submergé de patients qu’il ne peut traiter, et face au variant Delta, les mesures de restriction devenues habituelles que sont confinement et couvre-feu ne suffiront pas.

Tant de la diaspora que des autorités sur place, une mobilisation en oxygène et en vaccins au moins égale à celle en faveur des grandes villes est indispensable au Kef. Recueillir de l’aide en masse est bien sûr essentiel, mais sans une répartition équitable, jamais cette aide ne sera suffisante. Ecarter une partie du pays de la solidarité internationale ne pourra qu’avoir des conséquences incalculables. Les blessures ainsi causées s’avéreront sans nul doute encore plus longues et difficiles à soigner que la pandémie. Déjà aux prises avec un héritage introuvable de la révolution de 2011, la Tunisie prend peut-être la direction d’un chaos qui aura raison y compris de la raison.

«Et quiconque sauve un seul homme, c’est comme s’il avait sauvé tous les hommes», dit le Coran. Les autorités politiques actuelles de la Tunisie sont venues au pouvoir en mettant l’Islam au cœur de leurs aspirations politiques. Pourquoi alors n’appliqueraient-elles pas ce principe ? Sauver tous les Tunisiens, n’est-ce pas d’abord sauver un seul Tunisien, quelle que soit la région du pays d’où il vient ?

Depuis le début de ce nouvel épisode de crise, les ambassades tunisiennes à travers le monde reçoivent et centralisent l’aide médicale et humanitaire. A présent, il appartient à leurs supérieurs à Tunis, à l’Etat dont ces diplomates tirent leurs ordres, de veiller à la bonne et due utilisation du soutien mondial à la Tunisie. Et ce soutien n’aura de valeur et d’efficacité que s’il n’oublie personne, notamment pas Le Kef, l’oubliée par excellence au cœur de sa montagne. S’il le chante avec ironie dans Noé, c’est au sens littéral que Tunis doit désormais entendre ces paroles de Julien Clerc :

«Il ne sauve rien,
Celui qui ne sauve pas tout»
.

* * *

Prof. René Wadlow
Président

Bernard J. Henry
Officier des Relations Extérieures

Cherifa Maaoui
Officier de Liaison,
Afrique du Nord & Moyen-Orient

The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Weak but Necessary

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, Uncategorized on May 29, 2021 at 9:53 PM

By René Wadlow

“I am confident that if we work together and champion truly bold reforms, the United Nations will emerge as a stronger, more effective, more just and greater force for peace and harmony in the world.”
U. S. President Donald Trump, September 18, 2017.

The deployment of UN peacekeeping forces is only one aspect of conflict resolution and peace building. However, UN peacekeeping forces are the most visible (and expensive) aspect of the UN peacebuilding efforts. Thus, our attention must be justly given to the role, the financing, and the practice of UN peacekeeping forces.

May 29 is the International Day of the United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers. The day was chosen in memory of the creation of the first UN interposition force in the Middle East. In the years since, 3,800 have lost their lives. Today there are 14 operations. The most difficult are in Africa where there has been large scale breakdown of State structures such as the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

How effective are UN peacekeeping operations in preventing and stopping violence? Are there alternatives to the ways that UN and regional organizations currently carry out peacekeeping operations? How effective are peacekeeping operations in addressing the root causes of conflicts? How does one measure the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations? We must ask questions of their effectiveness and if these military personnel should not be complemented by other forms of peacebuilding.

There have been reports of UN Peace operations in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in South Sudan which highlight the systematic rape of women in the area and the inability or unwillingness of UN troops to stop the rapes which have become standard practice in the areas on the part of both members of the armed insurgencies as well as by members of the regular army. There are also other examples when “failure” is the key word in such evaluations of UN forces.

The first reality is that there is no permanent UN trained and motivated troops. There are only national units loaned by some national governments but paid for by all UN Member States. Each government trains its army in its own spirit and values, though there is still an original English ethos as many UN troops come from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Nigeria. Now China is starting to provide troops with a non-English tradition.

There have been proposals by some governments and nongovernmental representatives such as the Association of World Citizens (AWC) for the creation of a permanent UN standby force. This has been rejected, usually on grounds of cost (although it would be only a fraction of what is now spent on national armies). There has also been an alternative proposal of creating within national armies specially-trained forces for UN use. Because the great majority of UN troops come from south Asia, speak English and were originally formed in an English tradition, the creation of such units ready for quick use is a real possibility.

Moreover, there is no such thing as consistency and predictability in UN actions o preserve order. The world is too complex, and the UN Security Council resolutions are voted based on national interest and political power considerations. UN “blue helmet” operations have grown both in numbers and complexity. Even with the best planning, the situation in which one deploys troops will always be fluid, and the assumption on which the planning was based may change.

Peacekeeper Cpt. Dr. Barsha Bajracharya photographed with two of her nurses team mates at UN Post 8-30, Nepalese Headquarters, near the town of Shakra, South Lebanon. October 10, 2012 (C) Pasqual Gorriz/UNIFIL

To be successful, UN peacekeeping operations need to have clear objectives, but such objectives cannot be set by the force commanders themselves. Peacekeeping forces are temporary measures that should give time for political leaders to work out a political agreement. The parties in conflict need to have a sense of urgency about resolving the conflict. Without that sense of urgency, peacekeeping operations can become eternal as they have in Cyprus and Lebanon.

UN forces are one important element in a peacemaker’s toolkit, but there needs to be a wide range of peacebuilding techniques available. There must be concerted efforts by both diplomatic representatives and nongovernmental organizations to resolve the conflicts where UN troops serve. Policemen, civilian political officers, human rights monitors, refugee and humanitarian aid workers and specialists in anthropology all play important roles along with the military. Yet non-military personnel are difficult to recruit.

In addition, it is difficult to control the impact of humanitarian aid and action as it ripples through a local society and economy because powerful factors in the conflict environment such as the presence of armed militias, acute political and ethnic polarization, the struggle over resources in a war economy will have unintended consequences.

As we honor the International Day of UN peacekeepers, we need to put more effort on the prevention of armed conflicts, on improving techniques of mediation, and creating groups which cross the divides of class, religion, and ethnicity.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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