Practicing Freedom of Belief with Love and Conscience and Promoting Human Rights
Dr. Hong, Tao-Tze
Zhang-men-ren of Tai Ji Men
Vice President of the Association of World Citizens,
NGO in Consultative Status with ECOSOC and Associated with the UN DPI
President of the Federation of World Peace and Love
August 22, 2022
Distinguished Guests, Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The creation of the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief on August 22 reaffirms the objectives and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief. It also focuses on tackling the issue of violent persecution based on religion or belief, which is on the rise globally. It calls on nations to redress past instances of persecution, lessen the suffering of the persecuted, and promote respect for freedom of belief. Furthermore, it strongly condemns violence against religious minorities or spiritual organizations, any violation of international law and international human rights covenants, as well as the destruction, seizure, or attack against religious sites. It emphasizes that all member states have the primary responsibility to advance and defend human rights, particularly the freedom of religion or belief.
On this day, it is important to keep in mind the full and sincere respect for our inherent human rights that underpin the UN Charter and the aforementioned Declaration and Covenants, as well as the warnings and guidance provided to government officials on protecting citizens' freedom of religion or belief. The foundation of social stability lies in the balance of people's hearts, and genuine social harmony and world peace depend on the collective maintenance of people’s inner peace.
In recent years, discrimination and torture based on religion or belief has continued to expand, destroying the space for rational dialogue, creating divisions, sparking confrontation, and violating human rights. Religious minorities, in particular, are frequently the target of religious persecution. For the religious or spiritual groups that are being persecuted, it is a matter of survival and cultural genocide. Discrimination against specific people and groups is the first step in religious persecution. Persecution of believers of different faiths aims to erase their culture, identity, and beliefs, and religious violence is often coupled with abuses of other fundamental rights, including violations of the right to freedom of thought or conscience, and torture, which is a violation of all human rights. According to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, each signatory party shall take all necessary and appropriate measures to prohibit the use of torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment in its territory and to prohibit public officials or other persons acting in their official capacity from inflicting, instigating, consenting or tolerating such conduct. It should investigate all allegations of such conduct within its jurisdiction. Governments must take more aggressive action to shield people or groups from brutal torture, both obvious and covert.
With conscience as our root, we should respect life. Religion and belief are based on the human community. They all encourage people to act with conscience, do good, and help others. They also urge people to work together, understand one another, show compassion, and forgive one another in order to overcome differences, support one another, and advance freedom and civilization throughout the world. All religions and faiths come from the same origin. Although there are different ways to interpret scriptures and the truth of life, all religions and beliefs take returning to the soul’s spiritual home as the ultimate goal of life. Important fundamental principles of religion and belief include conscience, freedom, and human rights. This consensus that supersedes human law should be respected and upheld by all individuals, groups, communities, and nations.
Everyone's freedom of religion or belief should be protected, regardless of geographical, time and space constraints. Understanding and tolerance, which come from love, and conscience, which guides us to self-reflect at all times, are an important basis for the realization of positive ideals. If the government officials of a country lack respect for people’s human rights and their freedom of religion or belief, they will not be able to appreciate the particularity and values of religion and belief and will fail to fulfill the government's obligation to actively protect freedom of religion or belief and human rights, and they may even persecute religious and spiritual groups by various means. Persecution through taxation, in particular, is a serious violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees everyone the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Safeguarding and promoting freedom of religion or belief and religious pluralism is the embodiment of democratic values. All people should be free to act according to their conscience in matters of religion or belief, without fear of being discriminated against and persecuted by their governments or other groups in society.
The International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief inspires the international community to move in the right direction, calling for justice and the truth. A government should respect the root and essence of religious and spiritual groups. It must not use its public power to violate people's rights to life, person, personality, property, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom from slavery and torture, etc. It should strengthen the implementation of a legal system that protects individuals from discrimination and hate crimes based on religion or belief while promoting inter-religious, inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue and building a culture that respects human rights. By practicing freedom of religion or belief with love and conscience, protecting human dignity, and defending human rights, we can create conscience-driven, good governance that allows people to enjoy health and happiness and builds a prosperous and strong nation to improve the well-being of global citizens.
May everyone’s conscience be awakened and justice be served.
May equality and human rights be realized and everyone live in peace and security.