“I wish all religious people in NZ would get together at once and die from COVID-19”

“I wish all religious people in NZ would get together at once and die from COVID-19”

Religious freedom really matters. New Zealand Christian Network has a keen interest in publicly proclaiming and defending the right to religious freedom here in New Zealand. This is important, as it’s becoming more and more obvious that there’s a lot of deeply ingrained prejudice and even hostility toward religious people in our country.

Last weekend there was a very disturbing illustration of that. A talkback radio host expressed the desire that all religious people in New Zealand should meet together and catch COVID-19 and then die from it, so that “we won’t ever have to hear from them ever again”. On Monday, it was also available as a podcast. It has been taken down since, so we can’t provide the whole segment, but here’s the heart of it…

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Honestly, it is quite surprising that publicly wishing the death of all religious people in New Zealand is now considered okay by NZ broadcast standards. Would this type of language be acceptable about any other group of people in New Zealand?

However, let’s take as charitable an interpretation as we can. He most likely doesn’t wish to see a million or so (religious) New Zealanders dead. So, what might be a more accurate understanding of what this host is really trying to say? Maybe he is wishing that all religion would end? Or maybe he hopes religious people would just give up speaking?

But we have to ask the question: is either of these scenarios (death to religious people, death to all religion, or the removal of freedom of speech for the religious) really what we want in New Zealand? Countries that have gone down this road (like the Soviet Union or North Korea) don’t strike me as very pleasant places to live…for anybody.

Freedom of religion, which our host seems to have forgotten about, is in a lot of ways the ultimate freedom. It is deeply tied in with freedom of speech, and with human freedom in general. It’s an integral part of the basic freedom that allows anyone (Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Slob, Whatever) to think and live the way they want to, and not just how the government or the majority want us to. Remove freedom of religion, and then watch the dominoes fall in all aspects of freedom.

How about instead of wishing the people that we disagree with would just die, we instead fight bad ideas with good ideas? How about we take the time to consider more generously why someone might be religious (or not religious)? I’d be interested in hearing this radio host’s story of why he hates religious people so much. Maybe there is a lesson there we could all learn from (and hopefully it wouldn’t involve killing!).

I will continue this line of thinking in a later article, where I’ll explore some of the reasons why the non-religious might hate religious people so much and what can be said in response to those reasons.

“These are the victors who
valiantly surrendered life
to keep our island home
a land of peace and liberty.”

Whanganui Cenotaph

WEA – Advocating for Freedom of Religion or Belief at the United Nations in Geneva

WEA – Advocating for Freedom of Religion or Belief at the United Nations in Geneva

Speak for those who cannot speak; seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction.
Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and oppressed.
Proverbs 31:8-9 (ISV)

Discrimination, restrictions on the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief, and religiously motivated violence are on the rise. These have become, and have always been, the norm in the life and witness of the Church in most parts of the world today.

Being a voice for over 600 million evangelicals, how is the WEA responding to the ever-increasing threats to religious liberty?

Inspired by Proverbs 31:8-9, the WEA Geneva Liaison Office began to actively engage the United Nations (UN) Human Rights mechanisms in 2012 in defence of human rights, and predominately, the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief. The office’s aim is to foster structural changes in countries where our national Evangelical Alliances work, to strengthen the rule of law, to advance the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief, and ultimately, to enable an environment for a more vibrant Christian witness.

Why is a UN presence important?

As surprising as it may seem, the WEA Geneva Liaison Office is the only evangelical representative body advocating for religious freedom on behalf of the more than 600 million evangelicals at the UN in Geneva! And regularly, States that persecute or discriminate against religious minorities have to defend their human rights record at the UN’s Human Rights Council. By relaying the voices of national Evangelical Alliances, the WEA has a unique contribution to bring to the conversation.

In a recent article, Wissam al-Saliby reflected on what evangelical engagement with the UN means when it comes to advocacy for religious freedom, and explained more in detail how WEA’s voice can be of influence in this unique context:

Rights over Might: The United Nations, Religious Freedom and Our Role and Responsibility

What does WEA’s Geneva Liaison Office do?

The main tool available is to submit reports to various Geneva-based UN Human Rights mechanisms including the regular Human Rights Council sessions, the Universal Periodic Review, the Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. These reports would relay the information provided by WEA member Alliances.

The following are examples of reports submitted over the course of this year:

Visit their website for additional reports and written submissions to United Nations mechanisms.


Delivering oral statements at the Human Rights Council

In addition to reports and written submissions, the WEA delivers oral updates at the regular sessions of the Human Rights Council.

The following are some of the recent oral statements that are also available on WEA’s YouTube channel:

Watch additional videos of WEA interventions at the Human Rights Council.