U.N. Looking to NGO’s Involvement in Anti-Semitism Declaration

New York, NY…May 12, 2004. The International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) was represented at a discussion about the Berlin Declaration, an agreement among 55 nations to fight anti-Semitism, sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The discussion in New York City was held to inform organizations interested in religious liberty about the Berlin Declaration, which was crafted during the OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism on April 28-29. The Declaration calls for all OSCE countries to, among other things, collect and maintain reliable information and statistics about anti-Semitic crimes, ensure that their legal systems foster an environment free from anti-Semitic harassment, violence, or discrimination in all fields of life, and promote educational programs for combating anti-Semitism.

Stephan Minikes, U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE, introduced the Declaration and explained how it came into being. “OSCE is a regional U.N,” he said. “So every problem you can think of in the U.N., the OSCE deals with in its 55 countries, including anti-Semitism.” Minikes also explained the particulars of the Declaration to the various organizations represented, and encouraged them to tell others about it. “Help make this a continuing important document, read it, distribute it,” he said. “Help make it a living document as we move forward.”

In support of the OSCE’s efforts, IRLA secretary-general Dr. John Graz commented that “IRLA representatives have not only attended several OSCE conferences, but that the IRLA works closely with OSCE representatives in Euro-Asia and South America.” Graz explained that such participation provides for sharing of information and networking. He also said that the IRLA has helped organized meetings and logical arrangements for some OSCE experts in their visits to certain countries.

Graz further commented that it was natural for the IRLA to partner with the OSCE because the IRLA’s principles of defending religious freedom parallels that of the OSCE. “Anti-Semitism is one of the most consistent violations of human rights through all of history,” Graz added. “When Jews and minorities are persecuted, religious freedom is denied. Promoting religious freedom is promoting the right to be different, the right to have another religion – anti-Semitism denies such a basic right and should not be tolerated.”

The OSCE is a pan-European security body whose 55 participating states span the geographical area from Vancouver to Vladivostock. Recognized as a regional arrangement under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the OSCE is a primary instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation in its area.

The IRLA, organized by members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and chartered in 1893, is a non-denominational organization, established to promote and defend religious freedom for all groups and people around the world. For more information about the IRLA, visit www.irla.org. [IRLA staff]