Velazquez – Spanish Inquisition – Square

It’s time to end the political exploitation of religion

HOW OFTEN have you been warned not to mention religion or politics when meeting people? It is the explosive combination of these two entities that has been the root cause of so many of the problems besetting the world today.

In our tumultuous global landscape, religion is often used as a powerful tool in the hands of politicians seeking to further their own agendas. This weaponization of religion has devastating consequences, fuelling conflicts, exacerbating division, and undermining the fundamental principles of freedom and tolerance. In order to put an end to the political exploitation of religion, it is crucial for the international community to come together to establish a UN treaty that unequivocally prohibits the use of religion for political purposes.

The horror of these conflicts has motivated a remarkable organisation, aimed at creating an international treaty that would introduce clear rules banning all political uses of religion that undermine human equality, all religious discrimination in rights and duties, all religious exclusion, and all restrictions to freedom of belief and worship.

The organisation is named BPUR International – for Ban the Political Use of Religion ( Its founder and creator is an Iraqi poet, journalist and TV broadcaster called Salam Sarhan. Living in London since 1991, Salam moved to the UK from Iraq, where his family survived the abusive mixing of religion and politics during the Iraqi war and the subsequent invasion of more than a third of the country in 2014 by ISIS and their terrorist leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

ISIS imposed its barbaric interpretation of Sharia law on the beleaguered Iraqi population and its defeat ultimately led to the almost total destruction of the ancient cities of Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi, and many other age-old settlements. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis lost their lives. It was a turning point for Salam Sarhan. He realised that the problem cannot be resolved on any local or national stage and concentrated instead on persuading the United Nations on the necessity for an international treaty to ban the political use of religion.

Scenes from an inquisition by Francisco Goya

Throughout history, we have witnessed how the politicisation of religion has led to dire consequences. From the Crusades to the Inquisition, and more recently, the rise of religious extremism and sectarian conflicts, the manipulation of religious sentiments for political gain has perpetuated violence and sown the seeds of hatred. By implementing a UN treaty, we can ensure that history does not repeat itself, and that religion is respected as a personal belief without being exploited for narrow political interests.

Implementing a UN treaty to ban the political use of religion will undoubtedly face challenges and resistance. On the other hand, the respectful and indisputable approach of the treaty would expose any adversaries. It would make it an act of self-condemnation for any government to reject the fundamental principles of the proposed treaty. No principled counter argument could be made.

Critics may argue that such a treaty could infringe on religious freedom or be difficult to enforce. However, the primary focus of this treaty is not to dictate individuals’ personal religious beliefs or practices but to address the misuse of religion for political gains. Religious freedom should be protected, but the manipulation of religion for political purposes must be curtailed to preserve global stability and harmony.

BPUR has directed that work by creating a not-for-profit NGO or non-governmental organisation, headquartered in London, with supporters spread around the world from Ecuador to Bangladesh. A draft treaty has been drawn up with the assistance of leading officials, legislators, philanthropists, and top United Nations’ experts. An advisory board includes a former Archbishop of Canterbury, a leading Imam, an Orthodox Archbishop, and other distinguished international theologians.

BPUR does not aim to single out any specific religion or specific country for criticism. It is not its intention to point an accusatory finger at anyone or any nation. Nor does it wish to separate religion and politics, which would, in any case, be irrelevant and impossible to achieve. Its sole objective is to enact the proposed treaty by securing governmental support to table it at the UN General Assembly, helping to tackle the most intractable conflicts, terrorism, extremism, and a long list of abuses of human rights inflicted on minorities, women, children, and vulnerable people.

This campaign is now on a solid track on the international agenda with a significant motion for resolution in the Council of Europe, where the supporting text states: “We recognize that all existing international conventions related to human rights’ principles and values are still being side-lined by national legislation in many countries. They need crucially to be consolidated and affirmed by a highly focused and more effective new international treaty to combat specifically all forms of discrimination on religious bases”.

The UN treaty will define the behaviour and actions that would violate the rules, leaving no room for ambiguity for potential violators. It will include robust enforcement mechanisms, such as rigorous monitoring, reporting, and investigation processes. Prosecution and accountability measures for those found guilty of exploiting religion for political purposes will be outlined, ensuring that there are consequences for violations. But BPUR also wants a treaty that bans all restrictions to freedom of belief and worship, to ensure that the rules will apply to all violations and will bypass any clashes with the deeply engraved religious teachings that many people have.

BPUR International believes that its non-confrontational approach, grounded in the utmost respect for all religions, will build a global consensus to help the international community disarm extremism and deal with current and future conflicts.

By establishing a UN treaty to ban the political use of religion, the international community can take a significant step towards fostering peace, unity, and coexistence. With the Middle East in perhaps its most volatile state in decades, and populism rearing its head in the West,  this treaty would send a clear message to those who seek to exploit religion for personal or political gain that such behaviour will not be tolerated. It will protect religious freedom while safeguarding the principles of democracy and human rights. Let us unite in our quest to end the political exploitation of religion and create a world where peace and mutual respect prevail.

The BPUR International treaty is long overdue.

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Scenes from an inquisition by Eugenio Lucas Velázquez (1817-1870) –, Public Domain, – and by Francisco Goya – Web Gallery of Art: Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain,


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