An international group of leading academics and activists launched The Global Charter of Conscience to expose the growing tensions across the world surrounding freedom of thought, conscience and religion – freedoms that are supposed to be protected by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Charter was launched in the European Parliament, Brussels, in an event hosted by Finnish MEP Sari Essayah.
The Charter aims to bring religious tolerance into the centre of public debate and underlines the challenges of pluralism in the 21st-century 2globalised world. It points to a visionary, constructive approach to uphold fundamental freedoms in the midst of the rising diversity of beliefs, worldviews and ways of life.
The launch of the Charter has been initiated and prepared by the staff of the European Evangelical Alliance.
Drafting the Charter was the responsibility of Dr Os Guinness, an English author and social critic, and Dr Thomas Schirrmacher, a German sociologist. It was reviewed over the course of three years by people of many faiths and none, including more than 50 academics, politicians of many persuasions and NGOs, all committed to a partnership on behalf of “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” for all. Together with the authors, they intend the document to make a big impact on civic education.
“The Charter in fact allows everyone to be free to be faithful to what they believe, and acknowledge the ‘dignity of difference’,” said Os Guinness. “We need to provide a solution to do away with the polarisations and aggravating the bitterness surrounding religion in public life before we dive headlong into a culture war between the extreme ends of secular and religious intolerance. The Charter provides that solution and will encourage a new culture of civility where robust and noisy public debate is seen as good for society.”
Dr Heiner Bielefeldt, United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said: “This is a powerful document. It has enormous potential to inspire practical commitment and to contribute to a better understanding of human rights in general.”
Dr David McIlroy, a British barrister said: “This is the only way we can secure and uphold freedom of conscience in the twenty-first century.”
The Charter is supported by Dr Habib Malik, whose father, Charles Malik was a chief draftsman of the 1948 Universal Declaration. The text is open to further endorsements, whilst a dozen of academics have already showed formal support for this text. Subsequent launch events will follow in Bonn and in London.
> Global Charter of Conscience Urges Renewed Religious Freedom (by the Christian Post)
> June Newsletter of the European Evangelical Alliance