“Time to get serious on freedom of religion”

“Doing more begins with finding the political will to use the many tools already at our disposal,” says Peter van Dalen, Member of the European Parliament for the Netherlands, Co-Chair of the European Parliament Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, in a blog on the Huffington Post.

“Freedom of religion or belief is recognized as a universal human right by all major international human rights conventions. The International Criminal Court should do more to prosecute systemic or widespread religious persecution as a crime against humanity.”

He adds “Last year, the European Union issued guidelines for its diplomats on freedom of religion or belief. The guidelines contain many good ideas about how to recognize (coming) persecution. However, for the implementation of the various steps of sanctions as described in the guidelines the EU will have to find more political will then what’s currently in stock.

“One thing the EU guidelines overlooked is the role of religious leaders. Policymakers should engage, rather than eschew, religious leaders. They may be the problem in a number of countries, but they may also hold the key to solutions. Encouraging them to preach tolerance and making clear that hate speech is not acceptable may help to restored respect for religious freedom.”

He concludes “Faith can be extremely powerful. In a world where religion is often used to hurt and break down, let’s try and channel this power to heal and build up.”