By Eric Leijenaar, BosNewsLife Senior Special Correspondent reporting from the Netherlands
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (BosNewsLife)– An influential Netherlands-based organization providing aid to persecuted Christians around the world will not celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which falls on Wednesday, December 10.
“It’s a question whether the Declaration would have been accepted by the United Nations, today,” said Arie de Pater, who is advocacy director of Open Doors International.
His organization is especially concerned about apparent violations of article 18: “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.”
At least 200 Million Christians in 60 Countries are subject to persecution, according to Open Doors and other estimates.
De Pater suggested that for many countries the UN Declaration means no more than empty words. “On our list of countries with severe persecution of Christians are 50 countries where people have no freedom to choose their own faith. The right to change religion or belief has been violated in for instance Iran where a Muslim who coverts can receive the death penalty. Other strict Islamic countries give also severe
punishments to those abandoning Islam,” he explained.
The right to practise his or her religion or faith has been violated by national laws in several countries, Open Doors said, adding that the obligation to register churches and groups is a key instrument used by authorities. “Take Eritrea, where only four denominations are recognized. Even those are under constant observation by the governent. And, as all other faiths are banned, some 2,000 Christians are languishing in prisons across the country,” De Pater stressed.
He said similar measures may be introduced in the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan where “legislators have adopted strict religious legislation.” If the presidents agree, “we will see an Eritrean situation in these Central-Asian countries,” De Pater added. He said Open Doors has urged the international community to take human rights more seriously. “Only than we may be able to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2013.”