When President Obama signed a newly strengthened international religious freedom act on Dec. 16, the intention was to protect religious believers around the world.
But the freshly signed act is being heralded by some legal scholars as a different milestone — for the first time, atheists and other nonreligious persons are explicitly named as a class protected by the law.
Pwint Phyu Latt is a Muslim peace activist in Burma who sought to promote interfaith relations with Buddhists, the nation’s religious majority. She was sentenced this year to two years in prison and two more years of hard labor.
Gulmira Imin is a Uighur Muslim in China who led the 2009 Uighur protests against its communist government. She has been in prison ever since.
As President Obama has pointed out, the climate issue is not only a technical one. In his words, “We have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged.” We in the faith community would, of course, agree. But it is not only future generations that will bear the impacts of climate change. They are being felt now, most intensely by those populations around the world who are least able to cope with them. We must act with great conviction and haste to move toward solutions.
The central principle of the Bahá'í Faith is the oneness of humankind. This principle has deep implications for policy in many arenas. It should guide us to seek solutions that are equitable and just, treating all people as members of one human family. I believe that to be effective, the carbon standards established by EPA over the next several months must be animated by this foundational principle.