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Dec 14, 2023

By Most Rev. Dr. Henry C. Ndukuba Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)

Given at The Future of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Towards a Global Consensus that the UDHR Embodies a Civilizational Vision that
the World's Diverse Peoples, Faiths, and Nations Should Strive to Fulfill
An International Consultation among Senior Religious and Academic Leaders

Princeton University

13-14 December 2023 • Princeton, New Jersey USA

Protocol: Preamble:

We appreciate Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf General Chairman, Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board Founder & Chairman, G20 Religion Forum (R20) Jakarta, Indonesia Center for Shared Civilization Values, H.E Joko Widodo President Republic of Indonesia for the initiative to create a conducive environment for Interfaith Discourse and strengthening the relationship based on value and trust. We thank Dr. Timothy Shah and Holland Taylor of the Center for Shared Civilization Values. The team at James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University our host are well acknowledged. The R20 and the leadership of Kyai Haji Pak Yahya Choli Staquf, the Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board, Jakarta Indonesia, are leading a New way of thinking that will revolutionize inter-religious relationship and a new way of seeing humanity in the light of shared values suitable to all humanity and religious clime. This may not be a popular path, but it is certainly godly and harmonious which is the bedrock of civilization.


The 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights' (UDHR) has, for about seventy-five years, guided policies, perceptions and actions of many nations of the world. The Declaration to 'recognize the inherent dignity of all members of the human family' as the 'foundation of freedom, justice and Peace in the world,' has often been rendered inept by flagrant violations of the fundamental human rights of vulnerable people in several parts of the world. Many lives have been lost due to Wars, Terrorism, Mass shootings, Ethnic cleansing and genocides; as a result of racism, religious prejudices and tribalism/conflicts. Religion is based on belief in God, obedience to Holy Scriptures, living pious ethical lifestyles and sharing one's faith in a peaceful but transformative manner. These run contrary to the ideological objectives of some countries who subscribe to communism and secularism. These two ideologies and their derivative deviant cultural practices such as promoting homosexuality (LGBT+) and transgender as Human Rights issues relegate to the background the Religious Beliefs and Moral values of other people.

The universal applicability of the western version of UDHR is therefore being questioned and needs a review. This discussion can be widened by strengthening the shared values of civilization and the principles that promote humanity. African people experienced dual forms of slavery and colonialism: from the Christian British and the Muslim Arabs. The existence of intertribal wars between African tribes and collusive behavior of African tribal leaders paved a way that was inhumanely exploited by the Christian British/Europeans countries and the Muslim Arabs colonial slave traders. It is worth noting that the colonial period brought some benefits -- Education, Trade, Development of Infrastructure and Systems of Government. However, some of its callous negative effects remain with us till today. Africa has since become dominated, conquered, politicized along ethnic and religious lines, still subservient economically, socially and religiously to the whims and caprices of their colonial masters. Even today, active players on the soil of Africa include United States of America, Europe, China and Russia. Each and all these nations are active in exploiting the natural resources, influencing the economies, cultural practices and politics of governments and people of Africa. Underlying many of the exploits and influence of foreign nations in Africa is the notion of racial superiority.

Africa is still subservient to the will of her colonial masters despite their being sovereign nations. Hence, the promotion of radical religious and ethnic ideologies has constantly undermined efforts to build and maintain the peace and unity in the continent. Similar atrocities exist in many African communities like inter-African racial and ethnic superiority accounted for the Rwandan genocide, the wars in Somali, Ethiopia, and the resurgence of military coups and governments in West African countries such as Mali, Boukina Fasso, Niger, Guinea etc.

The African nations have for a long period of time become victims of human rights abuses by western powers. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade which trafficked millions of Africans overseas and the subsequent colonization of African territories initiated after the Berlin Conference on the partitioning of Africa, were motivated by racial/ethnic superiority, bias and nihilism by European powers. A form of internal colonization is emerging in Africa, where an ethnic group, using claims of ethnic and religious superiority as tool, suppress, oppress and dominate other ethnic and religious groups.

This is partly responsible for the activities of Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen and other Jihadist movements who have attacked and expelled Christian communities in many parts of the North and Middle Belt of Nigeria.

• More than 37,000 were killed in Borno State alone, by Boko Haram; which has been described as the "deadliest and most formidable jihadist group operating in the world today".
• Incessant wanton killings by other jihadist terrorist organizations in Nigeria have resulted in a serious refugee crisis. "There are almost 2.4 million internally displaced persons in the north-eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe where Boko Haram and ISWA are active.
• More that 23 pastors have been killed and 200 Churches destroyed in Kaduna State in the past four years. In other parts of the North, as at 2015, more than 70 Clergymen were Killed; over 13,000 churches and 1,500 Christian schools were destroyed or burnt.
• The Fulani Islamic Militia groups have already taken-over 18 local governments out of the 23 local governments in Benue state .These local governments are under siege by Terrorists Fulani herdsmen," according to the former Governor Samuel Ortom.
• In Plateau State, herdsmen seized and renamed 102 Plateau communities which are currently under the occupation of the Fulani militias. More than 80,000 people have been displaced as refugees. More than 22,000 persons, most of them children, remain missing because of the Boko Haram insurgency. (Report of International Committee of the Red Cross, 2019). Historically, every Emirate in Northern Nigeria had been founded on bloodshed and war .

Consequently, Nigeria has been described by international organizations as 'the Deadliest Place to be a Christian'. Despite cries by Christian church leaders and the Christian Association of Nigeria, Nigerian governments have been unable to protect the Fundamental Human Rights of Christians in Nigeria, who constitute about 48.1% (2% no-religious affiliate, Muslim about 50% US Pew Research Center) of the estimated 230 million Nigerian population. Neither have the International Communities directly intervened to rescue and protect Christian and other communities in the North, Middle Belt and South East are gradually being eliminated and displaced from their homelands.

We believe we deserve more attention on the killing of innocent and vulnerable, people. Religious and Political leadership must be held accountable. Signatory nations must be held to account for international Convention and Declaration for the sake of the people. It may require a review of the Jurisprudence that promote differential treatment to other human person .Every religion teaches love, mercy, care ,good ethical conduct and moral values that enhance good relationship within the Human Society and devotion to God.

The UDHR Principles have highlighted some of these religious values. On this 75th Anniversary, we meet as religious leaders to advocate a synergy between the political and Religious leadership to deal with and revise and re-orientate our citizens and adherents to follow the shaded civilization values. A major concern towards achieving a just and effective universal declaration of human rights is the marginalization of freedom of religion in the society that has promoted marginalization of religious freedom in the press and the weaponization of identity. We see religious liberty being weaponised in the painful effort to exterminate Christianity in some part of our country. The manipulation of Muslim dominated government has negatively influenced the media wherein certain issues are not covered because of their religious interest. Therefore, correct information and truth are suppressed.


1. The United Nations should redefine the true meaning and application of Universal Human Rights. The current misuse of language and legalism to justify and promote culture of deviant sexual behaviour as human rights that must be imposed through a form of neo-colonialism upon people of Religious Faiths in Africa must be challenged. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights did not envision its use to justify tolerating, advertising or imposing practices which run contrary to Religious Ethics upon vulnerable communities in the less developed parts of the world, by the Western Countries and their agencies. The sovereignty of every country and their religious ethics must be respected, without one country imposing its own cultural behaviours upon others to the extent of compelling them to compromise their religious codes and moral values as it is being witnessed in USA .The treatment of Uganda and Nigeria by Europe because of their laws designed to protect the sanctity of man-woman marriage. The rights of a citizen of a country are first and foremost determined by their own inherited and freely chosen cultural laws and values; not by a so- called universal code of conduct.

2. The United Nations and the leading nations of the world such as America, Europe, Asia and Arabia should have a change of heart in their perception of African nations as sub-human. The advanced countries have scarcely intervened to protect lives of Africans whenever they had crisis of wars; the same is being witnessed today in the Russia-Ukraine and Israeli-Palestinian wars which have been claiming lives of many innocent people. It seems that there is little respect for human lives of the people of the developing nations of the world, by the privileged advanced countries. Even within the United States of America, African-Americans are still experiencing racism and killing of Blacks to the extent that there are persistent cries by the Black communities that 'Black lives matter'.

3. Religious leaders, especially of major world religions should take decisive action in re-educating their Teachers and clerics to respect the fundamental human rights of people whose religious beliefs are different from theirs. The scriptures of religions which promote love, unity, tolerance and freedom of religious beliefs by individuals should be applied in relating positively with people of other faiths. Scripture texts that contain permission to kill, maim, kidnap, rape and enslave other people must now be seen as ungodly, inhuman, and outdated; they should be interpreted and confined to their past context without making them applicable to human relations in the contemporary times.

4. The United Nations and leading nations of the world should take prompt action in protecting Christians and Christian communities in Nigeria from the frequent killings and expulsion from their homelands by Terrorists who are motivated by religious and ethnic bias and hatred. Christians in Nigeria are becoming an endangered species. There have been several cases where innocent Christians are murdered by Muslim mobs extra judicially on the flimsy contrived charge of blasphemy, without these cold-blooded murders being punished by law. It now appears that impunity reigns as Christian victims do not enjoy fundamental human rights in the country. The wrong perception by the western powers that killings and displacement of Christian communities in the North are a consequence of climate change, or that African Countries who do not legally accept same-sex relations will not enjoy foreign aid and intervention, should be jettisoned. Attention is needed of the international community to the evidence of a well-organized, well-equipped and well-funded militia groups operating in some parts of central Nigeria, with links to Ansaru, Al-Qaida and Boko Haram terrorist groups, devastating the vulnerable Christian communities. Whatever reasons to which the killings can be attributed, that the massacres continue unabated, despite so much funds being poured into security measures, equipment and training, still raises a lot of suspicion on the politically correct narrative the international community chooses to believe and work with.

5. Religious ethical values should be reintroduced in schools, public institutions and the human societies at large as a means of character formation, good family upbringing and raising good, disciplined and transformative leaders who can enhance peace, harmony and unity. Proper guidelines and Rules should be established for training of young people and Religious Institutions. This would dissuade the perpetuation of Hatred , Threats and Abuse of other religious communities.

As we gather here in Princeton, we call upon all of us leaders who represent the various religious faiths of the world to return to our various homelands and preach peace and genuine love amongst the people of the world irrespective of their religious beliefs and persuasions. We should encourage Religious Teachers and Preachers to desist from unnecessarily attacking people of other Faiths; nor sponsoring religious terrorists in guise of pious religious expansionism. Rather, religious clerics should focus on telling the public the good things that their religions have to offer and leave people to exercise their freedom of choice of religious belief. There is a need for mass education of citizens of countries about this truism so that fatalist religious and ethnic ideologies do not continue to destroy the peace, justice and harmony of nations of the world. The R20 and Nadul Ulama has a key role in this new move in our world.

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