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11/24/04 - U-N OPPOSES INTOLERANCE - 2004-11-24

The United Nations Social and Humanitarian Committee has approved a resolution calling for the "elimination of all forms of religious intolerance." The U-N adopts such a resolution every year. But this year, in response to an upsurge in attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere, the U-N resolution for the first time mentions anti-Semitism, along with what was termed "Islamophobia" and "Christianophobia." A move by Muslim countries to delete the reference to anti-Semitism failed.

Earlier this year, the U-N held a seminar on "Confronting Anti-Semitism." The June program was the first in a series of discussions of groups whose members are often the targets of hatred and violence. U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan says one of the "most sacred purposes" of the United Nations is to promote tolerance:

"No Muslim, no Jew, no Christian, no Hindu, no Buddhist, no one who is true to the principles of any of the world's faiths, no one who claims a cultural, national, or religious identity based on values such as truth, decency, and justice, can be neutral in the fight against intolerance."

America's commitment to religious liberty is older than the United States itself. Many of the first European settlers in America were fleeing religious persecution. They cherished religious freedom as an inalienable human right. No one, says President George W. Bush, "should ever try to impose religion on our society":

"I think the great thing that unites us is the fact that you can worship freely if you choose and. . .you don't have to worship. And if you're a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim, you're equally American."

But too many people around the world are still denied their basic right of freedom of religion and conscience. And as long as this is the case, the United Nations should continue to fight against intolerance in all its forms.