Humanists at the UN raise issue of rising religious discrimination internationally

23 June, 2014

Humanists have taken a strong stance on growing religious intolerance, claiming that violence and discrimination against religious groups is affecting 75 per cent of people worldwide and is at its highest level in six years. Speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council today, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has attacked the pervasive ‘us-vs-them’ politics of governments and religious groups across the world and decried the resultant human rights abuses and destabilisation of global security.

The BHA’s representative to the Council, Amelia Cooper, presented compelling evidence of how religious identity cleavages are leading to often violent sectarianism both within and across borders. Ms. Cooper cited massive displacement and allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the Central African Republic, apparent government implication in the brutal repression of the Rohingya Muslim community in Myanmar and conflicts based on Islamic Sunni-Shia tensions across the Middle East and North Africa.

Ms. Cooper added that religious intolerance is also exerting a heavy toll on non-believers, telling the Council that “non-believers are globally persecuted, with thirteen States – all of them Islamic– punishing atheism or apostasy by death”. She continued that “religious intolerance not only violates Article 18 of the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights): it is the foundation for the denial of a myriad of fundamental human rights”.

The BHA has called on states to examine their own role in either passively or actively supporting religious discrimination and urged them to abide by UN guidance on freedom of thought and expression.


For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs, at or on 0773 843 5059.

Read the BHA intervention:

The UN Human Rights Council:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.