The Ministerial Conference of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance: Advancing Resilience in the MENA Region

Event | November 2023

From left to right: Sheikh Al Mahfoudh Bin Bayyah, SG of the Forum for Peace in Muslim Societies, Abu Dhabi; Professor Nayla Tabbara, IRFBA Council of Experts, President Adyan Foundation; Elie Al Hindy, Adyan Foundation; Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, Peacemakers Network; Dr. Salah Ali, General Coordinator Iraq Religious Freedom and Anti-discrimination Roundtable. Photo: Prague Ministerial Conference – MENA Region Roundtable

Peacemakers Network Executive Director, Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, spoke alongside Network members on best practices and needs to support resilience throughout the MENA region at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

Convened by the government of the Czech Republic, The Ministerial Conference of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA) addressed the topic of Freedom of Religion or Belief under Authoritarian Regimes. The conference explored the misuse of religion for political purposes, building resilience and the role of new technologies in the suppression of religious or belief minorities.

Dr. Elsanousi emphasized how religious declarations, such as the Marrakesh Declaration and the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty, play a pivotal role in fostering unity and advocating for human rights across diverse faith communities. Nearly every major faith-based document underscores universal concepts of moral values and human rights and that societies embracing religious freedom can foster diversity, mutual respect, and peaceful coexistence, which in turn contributes to economic growth and societal prosperity.

Further, Dr. Elsanousi reiterated that the meaningful participation of women, youth, and marginalized groups remains integral to fully realizing the potential of the global religious freedom movement. Despite the strides made, these groups still encounter barriers to engagement and leadership within this sphere. Consortia projects such as the Dutch-funded Joint Initiative for Strategic Religious Action (JISRA) are actively working to promote inclusive societies where religious freedom thrives. JISRA’s efforts, particularly in Muslim-majority states, aim to uphold the rights of women, youth, and marginalized groups as outlined in the Marrakesh Declaration.

The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom brings together leaders from around the world to discuss the challenges facing religious freedom, identify means to address religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, and promote greater respect and preservation of religious liberty for all. This event focuses on concrete outcomes that reaffirm international commitments to promote religious freedom and produce real, positive change.

About the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance

The International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance is a network of like-minded countries fully committed to advancing freedom of religion or belief around the world. Alliance members must fully commit to the Declaration of Principles. The Declaration is grounded in Article members must fully commit to the Declaration of Principles. The Declaration is grounded in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, which states everyone has freedom to believe or not believe, to change faith, to meet alone for prayer or corporately for worship. The Alliance is predicated on the idea more must be done to protect members of religious minority groups and combat discrimination and persecution based on religion or belief. The Alliance brings together senior government representatives to discuss actions their nations can take together to promote respect for freedom of religion or belief and protect members of religious minority groups worldwide. Currently 37 countries have joined the Alliance: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Estonia, The Gambia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Togo, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There are also five IRFBA friends: Canada, Guyana, Japan, South Korea, and Sweden. There are three IRFBA observers: Sovereign Order of Malta, Taiwan, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

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