Essay about Proselytism and Freedom of Religion

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Proselytism is an integral element of mainstream religions, in particular Christianity and its sects. Its restriction arguably run contrary to the very notion of human rights, undermining the freedom of religion, of association and of speech as enshrined and protected by the UNDR [1]. At the same time however, it needs to be recognized that this is merely scratching the surface of the debate, that there is a parallel in which aggressive proselytizing could at the same time infringe upon the very freedoms of others. So with this contradiction in mind, is there any way to justify laws limiting proselytism for the very sake of religious freedom? What is the stance the human rights regime ought to take?

Historically, Islam and Christianity had been spread quite literally, by the sword. Convert or die. Perhaps the biggest justification that there is indeed a need to regulate proselytism would lie with Africa. As elaborated by Makau Mutua in the reference book [2], African religion and the way of life were deeply intertwined. During colonialism, with conversion to Christianity necessary to receive healthcare and education, amounted to ‘cultural genocide’. African traditional beliefs were simply trampled upon and there resulted a void within the people’s identity. Forcibly imposing ones religion on another is fundamentally wrong. As we can see, there are certainly boundaries proselytism cannot cross and where laws are needed to keep them in check.

In today’s world there are already safeguards against forcible proselytizing. Shouldn’t an idealistic model of religious freedom balanced slightly with restricted proselytism already be reached then? This does not appear to be the case for there is still a major contention as to where...

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...oting, these non-proselytizing religions will die out. As can be seen, there are many other implications one must consider with proselytism other than just the laws.

In conclusion, proselytism is a very complex issue. It is entirely possible for laws to restrict it be aligned with upholding basic religious freedom, however in reality this seems much too difficult for there is always bias and discrimination to undermine the noble purposes of religious freedom.

Works Cited

[1] UN. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights [online]. Available:
[2] H. Steiner and P. Alston, International Human Rights in Context, Law, Politics, Morals. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 569-623.
[3] UN. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [online]. Available:

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