Without religious freedom other rights vanish – Baroness O’Loan

When the international legal right to freedom of religion is compromised, other human rights abuses usually follow, Baroness Nuala O’Loan has warned.

Referring to the right – contained in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – The Irish Catholic columnist quoted St John Paul II’s description of the right to freedom of religion or belief as a “litmus test for the respect of all other human rights”.

Speaking in a House of Lords debate on the issue, Mrs O’Loan said that even in Britain, Christian medical practitioners face massive challenges of conscience simply in doing their jobs, such that some have to leave their jobs in order to comply with their conscience. 

“We need as a country to think again about how we enable and reflect support for freedom of religion and conscience,” she said, welcoming the new government’s manifesto commitment to stand up for freedom of religion.

Calling attention to the plight especially of Middle Eastern Christians and Yazidis and Burma’s Rohingya Muslims, the baroness underlined how millions around the world “face torture, imprisonment, harassment and even death because of their beliefs”.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, agreed that “freedom of religion or belief is not just an optional extra, or nice to have” but is “the key human right”.