Geneva marks 22nd anniversary of Durban conference – ECI calls on Iranian Chair of upcoming Social Summit to step down to restore faith in the UNHRC


TehranJerusalem, September 1st, 2023 – As the infamous UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance marks its 22nd anniversary in Geneva, ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell notes that “the path to hell is paved with good intentions.”

In a statement in Jerusalem on Friday, where the international board of the European Coalition for Israel is currently meeting, he said: “No single event after the end of the Second World War has contributed more to the resurgence of antisemitism than this conference. Behind the noble cause of fighting racism, murky but powerful forces managed to divert the attention away from fighting racism to simply blaming the Jews. The late Congressman Tom Lantos has rightly described the treatment of Jews in Durban in September 2001 as ‘the worst display of antisemitism after the Second World War’. Today we know how, among others, the Islamic regime in Tehran managed to manipulate civil society organizations, including churches, into demonizing Israel and the Jews.”

Still today we see the devastating consequences of the conference on college campuses around the world through the so called “Apartheid week” where Jewish students are being harassed for showing support for Israel. In Christian circles the so-called Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme has effectively influenced a new generation of Christian activists in believing that Israel is the only obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Both initiatives were launched in Durban.

Sandell continues, “As we mark this sad anniversary, we need to remain vigilant against new forms of deception. Over the summer Islamic clerics and government representatives from Tehran have been warmly received at the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva whereas the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has joined forces with Iran, Pakistan and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discuss ‘the role of religion in protecting human rights’ despite the fact that the co-organizers are some of the worst human rights violators and persecutors of Christians in the whole world.”

“When Christian organizations turn a blind eye to the persecutions of fellow believers it usually goes hand in hand with also turning their backs on the Jews”, Tomas Sandell said.
Neither organization, WCC or WEA, have to date adopted the IHRA working definition on antisemitism but have instead remained highly critical of the State of Israel. There have, however, been no protests over the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran will soon chair the UN Human Rights Council’s upcoming Social Summit *) despite its continuous human rights violations, its support of international terrorism and persecution of Christians in Iran. ECI calls upon the Iranian Chair, Ambassador Ali Bahreini, to immediately step down from his position to restore faith in the legitimacy of the UN Human Rights Council.

Furthermore, European Coalition for Israel calls upon the World Council of Churches and the World Evangelical Alliance to show their unwavering support for the persecuted church in Iran as well as for Iranian women and youth who are currently out on the streets, risking their lives, for simply exercising their fundamental rights and freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Only by removing the current chair of the Social Summit can the objectives of the summit be given a fair and proper attention.


*) The upcoming Social Forum takes place in Geneva on 2-3 November and focuses on “the contribution of science, technology, and innovation to promoting human rights, including in the context of post-pandemic recovery”.


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