Engaging effectively with the freedom of religion or belief

CIFoRB holds a special session for parliamentarians to share their experiences around Freedom of Religion or Belief at the 62nd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in London (December 2016)

Special session for parliamentarians to share their experiences around Freedom of Religion or Belief at the 62nd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in London

Sitting in a vast ballroom for opening session of the 62nd CPA Conference this week gave one the opportunity to see the rich diversity of the Commonwealth  in full view. Parliamentarians from across five continents gathered for their annual conference and a significant number attended CIFoRB’s side event – Engaging Effectively with Freedom of Religion or Belief.

As one parliamentarian said before the opening of our event “religion and belief is a difficult area to discuss “.  And CIFoRB fully acknowledges this. The purpose of our discussion was not to debate or provoke but rather to listen. Our aim was to hear, first hand, parliamentarians’ perceptions around Freedom of Religion or Belief and  the challenges and for some, the personal  threats they face for raising the subject at all.

CIFoRB holds a special session for parliamentarians

Introduced by CIFoRB’s Co Director Baroness Berridge we heard from countries across the Commonwealth; parliamentarians speaking passionately about where they see their governments succeeding and some admitting where they don’t.

But the common denominator in the room was the desire to have a greater understanding and training around  Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights; the right to the Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion.  It was perhaps surprising to hear that, from so many parliamentarians  from so many different countries, and yet a brave and honest acknowledgement of what they lack.

CIFoRB holds a special session for parliamentarians

Moreover many felt a need for more space to talk about faith and non belief openly and the complexities and sensitives around that.

CIFoRB would like to thank those parliamentarians for contributing  to our side event. We do believe parliamentarians – with the right training and support - have the unique capacity to help reverse the global decline in the Freedom of Religion or Belief.  Our aim is to assist and equip them to bring about that change  across all Commonwealth borders.

 [Photo credits: copyright Commonwealth Parliamentary Association]