British NGO pushes for treaty to ‘ban the political use of religion’

BPUR International plans to focus on eliminating “the root causes” of the problem by providing a “clear framework in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights.”
Sunday 22/03/2020
Founder and director Salam Sarhan (L) and Chairman of Trustees Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris. (Mona Fayek)
Founder and director Salam Sarhan (L) and Chairman of Trustees Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris. (Mona Fayek)

LONDON--A British NGO is introducing an “international treaty to ban the political use of religion,” to halt inequality and religious discrimination.

BPUR International, founded by British-Iraqi journalist Salam Sarhan, said it was developing a treaty that would “introduce a clear framework to ban all political uses of religion that undermine equal citizenship and religious discrimination in rights and duties,” a statement on the organisation’s website said.

Sarhan, a contributor to The Arab Weekly, grew support for the initiative after writing an opinion article for the Independent last year in which he argued to “move towards an international consensus to prevent any invocation of religion… to support national and political agendas.”

“It is overdue to initiate and coordinate a concerted global effort to stop the use of any religion to justify any political endeavour that uses religious intolerance and division to its own ends,” he wrote.

BPUR International has worked with prominent political, civic and intellectual leaders, including Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, who was voted chairman of trustees on March 17.

The board includes former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, former Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour, former MEP Struan Stevenson, former member of the Council of Europe Elisabetta Zamparutti, Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma and tech entrepreneur Mila Bessmann. It also lists former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, Italian Senator Roberto Rampi and scholar Noam Chomsky as supporters and brought on international human rights experts Karen Parker and Alfred-Maurice de Zayas as advisers.

Sarhan said the organisation’s aim is “entirely different from all divisive confrontational attempts to separate religion and politics, which have often caused more damage than good, playing into the hands of extremists and unable to build global consensus.”

“The world’s leading powers have often made grave errors when dealing with religious sensitivities in local and international conflicts, playing into the hands of sectarian and extremist parties,” Sarhan said.

BPUR International plans to focus on eliminating “the root causes” of the problem by providing a “clear framework in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights.”

Sarhan said he hopes to see weapons withdrawn from extremists and a better climate of respect for religious rights, including banning political parties from engaging in religious discrimination and protecting freedom of belief and worship, the organisation stated on its website.

“No responsible government can refuse such fundamental fair rules,” BPUR International stated.

It plans to establish a global monitor to expose political abuses of religion and provide verified information on abuses that enable governments and organisations to hold perpetrators to account.

“We must not forget that the current murky situation is also allowing vicious political and economic interests to manipulate religious teachings to serve distasteful agenda,” BPUR International said on its website.

“We believe that the time is now right to initiate and coordinate a concerted global effort to stop the use of any religion to justify any political endeavour that uses religious intolerance and division to its own ends.”

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