Article 18: An article of faith
The United Nations doctrine ‘responsibility to protect’ has been flouted by the failure of international authorities to protect vulnerable minorities from sweeping assaults on religious freedom in Mosul and other places in Iraq by the so-called ‘Islamic State Caliphate’ - the jihadist warlords. Responsibility to protect is enshrined in Article 18 of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights and was born in the embers of the Holocaust; and of religion itself, writes Lord Alton of Liverpool.
Article 18 embodies freedom of belief. It is a universal human right and one which is violated universally.
Almost 75 per cent of the world’s population live in countries with high levels of government restrictions on freedom of religion or belief.
Christian minorities, Mandeans, Yazidis, Baha’is, Jews and Ahmadis are among those who face unspeakable persecution. And so do Muslims.
The head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, Professor Dr Mehmet Gormez, told the World Islamic Scholars Peace, Moderation and Common Sense Initiative that 1,000 Muslims are being killed each day - 90 per cent of their killers are also Muslims.
Article 18 insists that everyone has the right to believe, not to believe, or to change their belief. Tell that to the elderly and sick of Mosul, unable to flee and forced to accept the uncompromising ultimatum by the Islamic State (IS) jihadists, formerly ISIS, to convert or die.
The last Christian has been expelled from Mosul, reducing the Christian population from 30,000 to zero. The light of religious freedom, along with the entire Christian presence, has been extinguished in the Bible’s ‘great city of Nineveh’ – Iraq’s centre of Christianity for 2,000 years.
IS stole everything they had - homes, businesses, cars, money and even wedding rings before exiling the Christians on foot. Churches have been destroyed, shuttered or turned into mosques.
The war lords who dress their violent pursuit of power in the clothes of religion are part of an ideological pattern extending across North Africa and Asia.
Militant Islamist movement Boko Haram pledged to eradicate education in Nigeria and abducted 200 schoolgirls and has killed thousands in a wave of bombings and assassinations in northern Nigeria. Al-Shabaab has threatened and attacked Christians in Eritrea and Kenya. Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian wife and mother sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to renounce her faith, was freed but her case is not an isolated one.
The treatment of women is an outrage. The United Nations said that unverified reports claimed IS has ordered all girls and women to undergo female genital mutilation in Mosul.
Attacks on human beings, their freedom and dignity, are mirrored in the orgy of destruction of culture and heritage. IS has demolished the tomb of Jonah, replaced the cross with a black Islamic flag on Mosul’s St Ephraim’s Cathedral and beheaded or crucified any Muslim who dared to dissent.
What kind of place will these societies be if they cannot live with differences and minorities?
Copts, Armenians, Jews and other minorities have made a disproportionate contribution to the success of countries where they have been allowed to live peaceably. But we can see where intolerance leads in the horrifying crucibles of Syria and Iraq.
What kind of dreadful world is the IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, now to be known as Caliph Ibrahim, and surrounded by his black-clad, gun-toting acolytes, trying to create?
He says he is the successor of the first Abbasid Caliph, Mansour who, in 762, founded the city of Baghdad. It was a place where Persian and Arab Muslims, Jews and Christians co-existed, respected one another and celebrated each other’s talents and contribution. It became a centre of learning and scholarship. As religious tolerance flourished so did science and culture.
Caliph Ibrahim and his followers need to rediscover a capacity to live together not the violent, fascist and brutal netherworld of the Dark Ages.