One would think this would be obvious, especially to someone with a PhD in Political Science from the University of Edinburgh.
Let’s inform the newly appointed ambassador of religious freedom that atheists and other non-religious people face discrimination, persecution, unjust imprisonment, and even execution for their beliefs, just like religious people do.
For example, here are some who are being prosecuted by their governments:
Sanal Edamaruku – currently facing arrest in India for scientifically explaining a Catholic “miracle”
Alexander Aan – in prison in Indonesia (for 30 months) for confessing his atheism on Facebook
Hamad Al-Naqi – in prison (for 10 years) in Kuwait for insulting the prophet Mohammed
Albert Saber – sentenced to 3 years in prison in Egypt for running an atheist Facebook group
And here are some who are being persecuted, beaten, and murdered by their fellow citizens:
Rajib Haider Shuvo – killed by Islamists (in Bangladesh) for blogging about atheism
Asif Mohiuddin – fighting for his life after being stabbed in response to his (self-styled) “militant atheist” blog in which he said that God was “Almighty only in name but impotent in reality”.
[And by the way, CFI's "Campaign for Free Expression" also includes religious people who are being unjustly targeted based on their beliefs (or lack thereof).]
What can we do? We can start by telling Ambassador Bennett, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and our local MPs that we expect the Office of Religious Freedom to protect all people persecuted on the basis of religion, whether for having too much, too little, or the wrong kind. We can send them emails, paper letters, tweets, phone calls, etc, to let them know we who are non religious, atheists, secular humanists, agnostics, etc have a voice, and that we are speaking out for those whose voices have been silenced.
We’ve appended an example of a letter to send. Feel free to use it verbatim, change it as you wish, or write your own from scratch. Then, you can send it to:
John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs – firstname.lastname@example.org
Religious Freedom Fund* RFF-FLR@international.gc.ca
Please share this information on Twitter (you can use the hashtag #freedomfromreligion), Facebook, and anywhere else you can think of.
* We have been unable to find any direct contact information for Andrew Bennett, or the Office of Religious Freedom – the “Religious Freedom Fund” is the best we have been able to come up with so far. (If anyone has a better address, please send it to cfiottawa [at] gmail [dot] com.)
The Office of Religious Freedom mandate does not include mention of the non-religious or those with no religious belief. Yet there are many non-believers around the world who are subject to persecution and serious violations of their human rights, including unjust imprisonment, beatings, and even execution. I would like to see the Office’s mandate extended to include protection and equal treatment for non-religious people and groups in Canada and around the world. The Office should begin by giving a voice to Canadian secular, humanist and atheist groups by inviting them to advise the Government of Canada “on advocacy, analysis, policy development and programming relating to protecting and advocating on behalf of non-religious minorities under threat.”
There are knowledgeable people in numerous national and provincial secular, humanist, and atheist organizations who would be willing and competent to advise and assist Ambassador Bennett and other Office officials on “countries or situations where there is evidence of egregious violations of the right to freedom” for the non-religious, “violations that could include violence, hatred and systemic discrimination.” These advisors will give the Government of Canada and the Office ample evidence to show that agnostics and atheists need protection in the same way persecuted religious minorities do.
Please ensure that the non-religious will be treated with the same concern and attention as the religious and will benefit from the fundamental Canadian values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. To achieve these goals, secular, humanist and atheist groups need to be consulted as part of the ongoing policy development for the Office of Religious Freedom.