In May of 2011, a new organization called Freedom of Apostasy formed to elicit a UN response to a growing number of human rights violations against apostates in various countries.
Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 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.”
Despite this global recognition of freedom of belief, several countries have laws which make apostasy (or changing of one’s belief) illegal, with punishments ranging from denial of government services, imprisonment, torture, and death, each of which is recognized as crimes against humanity.
Freedom of Apostasy’s main objectives are twofold: First, to promote awareness with regard to the persecution of apostates; and second to pressure world governments to affect a UN resolution calling for the recognition of the wide spread violations of Article 18 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights . Further, that where a government allows or participates in crimes against humanity directed against apostates, that sanctions be established and enforced against the offending country until such time as the perpetrators cease engaging in such atrocities.
As the founder, I’m really no different than most people. To many religious people, I am an apostate, not because I don’t believe in God, but because I chose to follow the message sent by God rather than to get caught up in taking sides over which religion is superior. To me, the most important aspect of God’s messages to mankind is to follow the message rather than the messenger. While I hold no contempt for any of God’s messengers, apparently, there are a great many people who do, as are there a great many persons in positions of power committing atrocities against those viewed as apostates.
Article 18 is supposed to represent the international voice of reason with regard to the inalienable right to belief, yet, the international community has chosen to ignore this aspect of their own declaration of human rights, and allow human rights violations against those who chose to believe differently.
I’ve been employed in the computer industry for over 25 years, and in that time I’ve witnessed the internet grow from obscurity to what it is now, which is an integral part of people’s lives all throughout the world. Like others, I’ve watched in amazement as the power of the internet to bring together like minded individuals played a significant role in the coordination of peaceful protests that have brought down autocratic regimes in the Middle-East. In the aftermath of these revolutions came news stories about atrocities committed against those accused of apostasy, the most recent involving crimes against humanity committed against Bahia’s in Iran. Upon researching the subject matter, I discovered that such crimes are much more wide spread than I had ever imagined.
I heard a quote recently from Edmund Burke, an Anglo-Irish statesmen who stated, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” History has shown how a small group, when simply provided a catalyst to act, can affect great change. If the power of the internet can be used to facilitate revolution, certainly it can be used to improve awareness and, by virtue of the simple act of clicking the button on a computer mouse, it might even invoke justice for those who suffer at the hands of intolerant and misguided leadership who engage in human rights violations.
The international community is able to affect such change, and my hope is that Freedom of Apostasy, via the internet, will provide the catalyst. Now all that is needed is for good people to act.
To learn more about this initiative and to participate in calls to action, visit the website at www.freedomofapostasy.wordpress.com