By Akanimo Sampson
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has raised concerns about some of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion.
Though WEA commended it for a number of its findings, but in a statement read at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), it strongly disagreed with the report on abortion.
Behold the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief’s recently published report to the UNHRC.
However, speaking on behalf of more than 20 organisations, WEA raised concerns about some of the report’s suggestions when it comes to conscientious objection in the context of abortion.
“WEA, on behalf of 21 organisations, takes note of the Special Rapporteur’s report and fully supports his view that violence, coercion, and discrimination in the name of religion are never justified nor should they be condoned.
“However, we express concern at the report’s suggestion that religious individuals are engaging in harmful conduct by supporting policies and legislation that limit abortion.
“The report also appears to question the right to conscientious objection by health-care providers and institutions unwilling to perform abortions.
“Indeed, we believe that the full recognition of religious freedom, as well as several other fundamental human rights, must include recognition of the right to protect life in the womb and to advocate against its termination both in words and deeds.
“No one should be forced to choose between joining the medical field to help the vulnerable and living by one’s deeply-held moral, religious or philosophical convictions, or more simply by one’s scientific ethics”, the statement states.
WEA also expressed concerns about “the report’s suggestion that international law may have some role in defining the doctrinal positions of religious groups regarding the role of its members.”
Last year, WEA together with the Swedish Evangelical Alliance has raised the same concern in the context of a Swedish midwife who was denied continuation of her employment because she refused to perform abortions.
Even though the clinic in question could have reasonably accommodated the midwife’s request, no compromise was found. As the Swedish government does not provide protection for conscientious objection, the case was brought to the European Court of Human Rights where it is still ongoing.
In their report to the UNHRC, the WEA and SEA pointed out that “Sweden is one of the rare countries where conscientious objection for medical personnel unable to participate in abortions due to their convictions, is not respected.”
They then called upon Sweden to “respect the freedom of conscience of medical personnel by applying a principle of reasonable accommodation with their requests not to contribute to acts going against their inner convictions and provide for the right to exercise conscientious objection.”
Bp Efraim Tendero, Secretary-General of the WEA, commented: “We appreciate the important work of the United Nations in general and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in particular in raising issues of religious freedom around the world and providing a platform where faith bodies like the WEA can speak up on behalf of those we represent.
“We do find it unfortunate, however, that in this case, we had to shift our focus from advocating against persecution, discrimination or violence, to defending the values we uphold and pushing back against attempts to shift the boundaries of international human rights law to limit the freedom of conscience and freedom to exercise our faith.”
Adding, he says, “We also believe that justice demands laws that protect the lives of unborn children. We will continue to use our voice at the United Nations to speak up on behalf of the voiceless. We are grateful to all the organizations who at short notice came together in an ad-hoc coalition to co-sign our statement and together speak up on this important issue.”