When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.
Conversation avec Augustin Cochin.
Where I went from there
the term “refugees” applies to any person who:
“Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
I know that most –isms and religions have some extreme adherents, who honestly believe that the rest of the world should follow their beliefs. Some of these form groups devoted to achieving this. Some of these groups believe that failing to follow their beliefs makes one less than human, and that non-believers should not have equal rights with believers – for instance, it may be that atheists, agnostics, and miscellaneous pagans cannot get employment documents. Some go further and believe that force should be used to make some others comply – for example, live peacefully with “People of the book” but use threat of death to convert everyone else. Some go further still, and wish to kill even those who hold to a different interpretation of their holy books while following the same version of the divine, or whatever other social belief is important to them.
Being a devout agnostic, I am deeply aware of these groups. I have met people who assume that I am worse than untrustworthy because I don’t claim to have a god I believe in, even though those who lie about their beliefs or ignore their religions’ rules are much less trustworthy (Seen the statistics on child abuse?) I avoid going to certain countries because I don’t want to have to lie about beliefs in order to travel safely. I worry about their spread. Especially the extremists who believe that abortion clinics should be bombed, and that no non-christian should ever be President,
I suggest that all members of the United Nations publicly state the following:
We will only give refuge to those who commit to reciprocal tolerance of others’ belief and lack of belief, and to recognition of all human rights.
The extreme case
Where people are of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed, unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be treated as they would treat others. If their group generally say that those who convert from their belief should be killed, they must not be given refugee status unless they renounce that aspect of the belief, and if they later recant the death penalty should, logically, apply. If they deny others’ evidence equal weight before the law, their evidence should so be discounted in the country of refuge. If they would tax unbelievers more heavily than their own, they shall be taxed heavily in the country of refuge.
The moderate case – or is it?
Where people are of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed, unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be denied refugee status. If they are refugees from another such group of differing belief – well, that is fair exchange of oppression.
The interaction of this with overseas oppression
Where a government oppresses others in such a way as to make people become refugees, that government should not generally be assisted if another oppressive group attempts their overthrow. Intervention should only be on a humanitarian basis. Refugees should not be sent back to an oppressive regime, as they have renounced the oppressive culture and will therefore be liable to greater risk.
If a self-proclaimed government attempts to invade other nations and enforces oppressive beliefs, that requires immediate and forceful response from the United Nations – Peace Makers, not Peace Keepers. The attempted invasion is not just a war, it is a denial of human rights extending across borders, which is a much more serious and urgent matter. If we stand idly waiting for someone else to fix it, we encourage all extreme belief groups to try their hand at the same game.
And that, I would pay higher tax to avoid. I would travel to be a “grumpy old pensioner” on the battlefront, to embarrass the invaders until they stop that so that my grandchildren will be safe. (Besides, it beats relying on the social system in old age, now that the illiberal and small-hearted are running the county.