Last week I attended the World Forum for Culture of Peace meeting in Malta. Five presidents and heads of state, high-level experts and representatives from civil society organisations, had been invited by the President of Malta, George Vella, to explore the concept of ‘Leadership for Peace.’ It was a timely conference, given the horrifying war in Ukraine. I had been invited to tell the assembled leaders about a new global initiative to introduce an international treaty to ban the political use of religion. I am a member of the Board of Trustees of an organisation called BPUR International. BPUR stands for ‘Ban the Political Use of Religion’ and our non-governmental organisation (NGO), with its office in London, is seeking to persuade the United Nations to adopt an international treaty that would effectively ban the abusive mixing of religion and politics.

Everyone knows that one of the main messages of all religions is to be kind to each other, but unfortunately, religion has very often been used as a weapon. When we look at the world today and in the last few decades and indeed throughout history, we see that the abusive mixing of religion and politics has been the main root cause of the worst conflicts. There have been thousands of attempts to solve this problem. But very often they end up doing more damage than good by giving ammunition to the extremists. Unlike all previous attempts, BPUR’s historic mission affords the utmost respect for all religions with a unique understanding of all sensitivities surrounding this minefield and how to build a global and respectful consensus. 

The proposed treaty represents a new approach to introduce clear, simple and indisputable international rules to ban all political uses of religion that undermine human equality, or lead to religious discrimination in rights and duties, or religious exclusion, as well as all restrictions to freedom of religion and belief. These simple terms would apply to all violations without any clashes with religious beliefs. One of the central points of this initiative is the fact that BPUR does not single out any specific religion or specific country. We sincerely believe that there is no solution for this problem on any national stage. We need to apply fair global rules to fix a global problem.

This is not separating religion and politics! On the contrary, BPUR believes such a separation is not only irrelevant, but also impossible, even in most western nations, let alone other parts of the world. BPUR only seeks to stop the political abuse of religion and all religious discrimination. The BPUR initiative is building phenomenal support worldwide, because it is indisputable! No responsible government or person can refuse such fundamental fair rules! No-one can say: No! I want to use religion to discriminate between people! 

BPUR believes that this non-confrontational approach is the only way to build global consensus and help the international community eliminate the root causes of religious extremism and deal with most of the current and future conflicts.

The evidence is here; the support for this initiative is accelerating rapidly among distinguished leaders, officials, lawmakers, philanthropists, influential people, royalty, UN officials, religious leaders from all over the world and international organisations. The roadmap of BPUR’s historic mission is to secure governmental adoption to table the proposed treaty at the UN General Assembly and BPUR is very close to securing that objective, with advanced engagements with many governments. Large groups of parliamentarians have already asked their governments to adopt this initiative, especially in Morocco, Italy, Bangladesh, Austria, Pakistan and most recently - the United Kingdom, where 27 cross-party parliamentarians, led by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, have asked the Boris Johnson to adopt the initiative. 

The proposed treaty would certainly make a massive difference to the lives of billions and serve all international humanitarian objectives by eliminating the root causes of many intractable conflicts and a long list of violations of human rights. If we had adopted this treaty 70 or 50 or even 20 years ago, we could have prevented the destruction of so many countries and saved millions of lives and livelihoods.