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Progress Made After UN Vote

ICC Note:

Advocacy Efforts Help Erode Support For Resolution Which Threatens Christians’ Freedom

12/23/09 USA (ANS) — The U.N. General Assembly passed the Defamation of Religion Resolution for the fifth year in a row on Friday (December 18, 2009), but support continued to erode for the resolution which many Western countries say threatens freedom of speech, especially for minority Christians in Muslim-dominated nations.

The Islamic-sponsored non-binding resolution passed with 80 votes in favor, 61 against and 42 abstentions. That compared with 86 votes to 53 with 42 abstentions for a similar text last year and figures of 108-51-25 in 2007, the last time the measure commanded an absolute majority of U.N. members.

The Defamation of Religions Resolution seeks to criminalize words or actions that are deemed to be against a particular religion, namely Islam. Although proponents justify the “defamation of religions” concept as protecting religious practice and promoting tolerance, it really promotes intolerance and violates the freedoms of religion and expression for religious minorities in these countries.

Open Doors USA helped to lead the advocacy effort at the United Nations to prevent this resolution from passing. Open Doors lobbied key voting countries, organized a petition drive for Open Doors USA supporters to campaign against the resolution and spoke on this issue to the media.. The Open Doors advocacy campaign is called “Free to Believe.”

“Despite the fact that the resolution passed, we have seen two years in a row of sharp decrease in support for the resolution,” says Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Lindsay Vessey. “Just two years ago, 33 countries changed their votes, and this year 19 countries changed their votes. This means that they either switched from voting yes, to abstaining or voting no, or from abstaining to voting no on the resolution.

“It is not easy to convince countries to change their votes, so the voting behavior is a testament to the dedicated efforts of several organizations to stop this dangerous resolution. Although we have not overturned it yet, I am really encouraged by the results of this year’s vote. We’re grateful for all the dedicated efforts of our partner organizations and to all those supporters who signed the Free to Believe petition (4,957) on the Open Doors USA Website.

Vessey adds: “Despite the progress in changing countries’ votes, there is a new threat next year. The UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards had a meeting in October. During this meeting, Pakistan introduced a proposal with similar aims as the Defamation of Religions Resolution to make it an optional protocol to the International Covenant on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.

“Unlike the previous Defamation of Religions Resolutions that have been dangerous despite being non-binding, this new protocol would serve as a binding treaty for all signatories. For this reason, Open Doors USA will continue its efforts to stop this new threat next year.”

The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), an inter-governmental organization of 57 countries with majority or significant Muslim populations, has been the driving force behind the Defamation of Religions Resolution. Vessey concludes: “Thanks to the thousands of you who stood with us in this effort. There’s still much work to do on this issue, but we are certainly encouraged by Friday’s vote and the continued decline in support for a resolution that’s frequently used to silence minority religions – including Christianity – in many countries.”

On Jan. 6, 2010, Open Doors will release its annual World Watch List of the 50 countries which are considered the worst persecutors of Christians.

An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world’s most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our website at