Unification News For March 1996
Religious Freedom and the United Nations
by Peter Ross-NYC
On February 28, 1996, Mr. Yasuo Sudo, a 31 year-old Japanese national, filed a formal complaint against the Japanese government for its involvement in the disappearance of his wife, Mrs. Nanako Sudo. Mrs. Sudo, 27 years old, has being missing from their home in Manhattan since January 25, 1996. Both the Sudos are Unificationists.
Mr. Sudo presents evidence in his complaint that Japanese officials have conspired and acted with others to abuse Mrs. Sudo's liberty and to violate her human rights. He contends that his wife has been abducted in New York, that she is currently being held against her will, and that she is being subjected to a coercive and abusive process to compel her to renounce her faith and to terminate her marriage to Mr. Sudo. Mr. Sudo asserts that the Japanese government has tried to cover-up its role in this matter and has attempted to obstruct his own desperate efforts to find his wife.
The United Nations has formally processed Mr. Sudo's complaint and is conducting its own investigation from Geneva. Upon a finding in his favor, Mr. Sudo expects that the U.N. will appropriately sanction the Japanese government. Most immediately, Mr. Sudo is appealing to the Center for Human Rights to persuade the Japanese government to present Mrs. Nanako Sudo to the international community in accordance with established principles of habeas corpus.
As the attorney representing Mr. Sudo in this case, and also in response to other recent incidents of government abuse of the Unification Church in several countries, I obtained some information at the United Nations which was most instructive and informative.
On November 25, 1981, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution #36/55. This was properly entitled: The Declaration On The Elimination Of All Forms Of Intolerance And Of Discrimination Based On Religion Or Belief. The adoption of this Declaration presented the General Assembly with the opportunity to re-iterate that one of the essential purposes of the United Nations as contained in its charter is the promotion and encouragement of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion. Furthermore, this resolution affirmed that freedom of belief is one of the rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1948, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted in 1966.
The Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people."
Article 2 declares: "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status."
Article 18 states: "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, and observance."
This right was transferred into a legal obligation for ratifying States in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that:
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
2. No one shall be subjected to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subjected only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions."
Thus, when the General Assembly proclaimed the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief, it stated that it considered it essential "to promote understanding, tolerance and respect in matters relating to freedom of religion and belief" and that it was resolved to "adopt all necessary measures for the speedy elimination of such intolerance in all its forms and manifestations and to prevent and combat discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief."
In the Preamble to the Declaration, the United Nations General Assembly stated:
"Considering that religion or belief, for anyone who professes either, is one of the fundamental elements in his conception of life and that freedom of religion or belief should be fully respected and guaranteed,
"Considering that it is essential to promote understanding, tolerance and respect in matters relating to freedom of religion and belief for ends inconsistent with the Charter, other relevant instruments of the United nations and the purposes and principles of the present Declaration is inadmissible,
"Convinced that freedom of religion and belief should also contribute to the attainment of the goals of world peace, social justice and friendship among peoples and to the elimination of ideologies or practices of colonialism and racial discrimination, .. "
Among the eight Articles, the following are most pertinent to the issues discussed in last month's Unification News and the issues which comprised the complaint filed at the United Nations against the Japanese government.
Section 2 of Article 1 states that: "No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice."
Article 2, Section 1, states that: "No one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons or person on the grounds of religion or other beliefs." And Section 2 continues: "For the purposes of the present Declaration, the expression "intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief" means any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on religion or belief and having as its purpose or as its effect nullification or impairment of the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis."
Article 3 states: "Discrimination between human beings on the grounds of religion and belief constitutes an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and shall be condemned as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enunciated in detail in the International Covenants on Human Rights, and as an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations between nations."
It is indeed encouraging to see that the United Nations is attempting to wrestle with the many challenges to religious freedom that arise in the world. The issue of freedom of religion and belief is particularly ripe due to recent incidents in all too many countries in a variety of forms against a diverse array of religious communities. Franklin Delano Roosevelt noted wisely in 1937 that "the epidemic of world lawlessness is spreading. When an epidemic of physical disease starts to spread, the community approves and joins in a quarantine of the patients in order to protect the health of the community against the spread of the disease."
While its mandate permits it to respond in particular to the actions of States that unduly impinge upon religious freedom, the UN has only recently begun to address the fact that all too often State misconduct is instigated by its predominant domestic religion. Moreover, the international community faces serious challenges as it contends with the response of States to the increasing plurality of religious expression and the rise of fundamentalism set in the context of a concurrent propensity towards secularism. From its bully pulpit, the United Nations can set forth and uphold general principles to enable nations avoid a collapse into lawlessness when faced with such pressures.
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