Network Presents Recommendations during a Meeting hosted by Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU
Freedom of Religion and/or Belief (FoRB) should be a fundamental human right for all, yet has faced increased threats around the world. In response to the growing threat, Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU, Mr. Jan Figel, hosted a meeting in Brussels on how to increase EU support for FoRB. Eight ambassadors and high-level member state representatives, including Pekka Metso, Ambassador-at-Large, Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Processes of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Finland, discussed how the EU and its member states could promote and advance FoRB. During the second day of the meeting, civil society organizations and experts built upon previous discussions and shared their reflections, experiences and ideas on how to further advance the Sustainable Development Goals and interreligious engagement.
Network Executive Director, Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, participated on a panel discussion regarding the conditions needed to make an effective tool to promote Freedom of Religion or Belief and inclusive societies. Dr. Elsanousi noted interreligious dialogue, collaboration, and understanding has progressed substantially in recent years. To further be strengthened, it requires more trust building with reluctant actors and inclusivity. Collaboration is key with wide-variety of actors involved in these processes, and as to what States should and should not support and engage in should be approached with caution. The independence and neutrality of religious leaders is key. Youth engagement should be promoted.
In addition, Network Coordinator, Ms. Marikki Rieppola, presented best practices and lessons learned in the Network project: South and South East Asia: Advancing Inter-Religious Dialogue and FoRB (SEA-AIR). The SEA-AIR project aims to contribute to an improved consensus and a conducive environment for the protection of freedom of religion and belief and for peaceful coexistence of groups and individuals with different religious affiliation in Southeast Asia. Specifically, the project aims to enhance local capacities to prevent and combat discrimination on grounds of religion or belief through interfaith understanding and mainstreaming at country and regional level in Myanmar, Bangladesh and other South and Southeast Asian countries. Final beneficiaries will include women, youth, minority groups and other individuals marginalized or discriminated on the basis of religion, local communities impacted by escalating challenges to FoRB, by related human rights violations and escalating violence in target countries.
European Union member states have reaffirmed and embedded the promotion of FoRB within their wider commitment to advance and protect human rights. Following a resolution in February 2016, the European Commission created the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU. Mr. Jan Figel was appointed to this role in May 2016 and has been actively engaged with government, civil society and religious leaders and actors around the world. The Special Envoy recommends the EU should seek to, “better combine EU political instruments with programs reinforcing the capacity of State and non-state actors to prevent and address FoRB violations.
22 October 2019