“We are appalled. In its Budget Law the Italian Government declares its willingness to help persecuted religious minorities in crisis areas. Who could criticize that? It turns out, however, that the only minorities designated to benefit from this provision are Christian minorities. If you consider this along with the Italian government’s general approach to immigration, its motto seems to be: ‘Help them at home, as long as they’re Christian’.
We can’t ignore the fact that most of the countries persecuting Christians are allies of ours and therefore that diplomatic pressure (of which there is not a trace) would be far more effective and less expensive.”
This is what Adele Orioli, Secretary of the Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR), has to say about the Italian Budget Law, Art. 1 paragraph 287, establishing a fund of 2 million euros a year for 2019 and 2020 and 4 million euros from 2021 on, for direct aid to Christian minorities subject to persecution in crisis areas.
Andrew Copson, President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU, of which the Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics is a part) argues: “Any intervention aimed at promoting human rights is welcome, but it must be clear that religious persecution is hardly limited to Christians. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, religion or belief, and almost all beliefs are discriminated against somewhere in the world. A government that focuses specifically on a single religion within an international mandate risks limiting the universality of that right. Indeed, such a stance can be perceived as a form of cultural partiality, or even an effort to gain the electoral consensus of the country’s religious lobbies. Freedom of thought, religion or belief is best protected when nation states adopt an inclusive and comprehensive approach and not a parochial interpretation of this universal right”.
IHEU’s yearly Freedom of Thought Report makes clear the extent to which atheists, humanists and non-religious are discriminated against in the world and that the problem concerns all religious minorities. According to data published in its latest edition (November) 71 countries have laws against blasphemy: in 18 there is a fine, in 46 prison sentences and in 7 the death penalty (Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia). Eighteen countries criminalize apostasy: in 6 it is punishable by prison (Bahrain, Brunei, Comoros, Gambia, Kuwait, Oman) and in 12 by the death penalty (Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen). Most of these countries equate blasphemy with apostasy.
UAAR invites all those who cherish freedom of thought and the principle of universal human rights to e-mail the following text to the President of the Council of Ministers (email@example.com) expressing indignation at an initiative so blatantly biased as to subject the protection of human rights – and survival itself – to religious affiliation.
OBJECT: Human rights are universal: why limit them to Christians?
helping persecuted minorities – as laid out by the Government in Art. 1, paragraph 287 of the Budget Law – is laudable and does your country honor.
I must express my disapproval, however, at the decision to limit this help to Christian minorities, thereby subjecting the protection of individual rights to religious identity.
I also wish to point out that atheists, agnostics, members of the LBGTQ community and women are also harshly persecuted throughout the world whether or not they pertain to a minority. We therefore implore you to do everything in your power to correct this unjust anomaly.