Christ religion

We are all responsible for protecting freedom of religion or belief

Religious freedom is under threat in many countries.(Photo: Unsplash/Gift Habeshaw)

It is a known fact that violations against persons of religion or belief are indicative of violations of many other human rights in the same context. It is also now understood that the problem is beyond the ability of any individual, organization, community or even state to tackle it alone.

That is why the collaboration and cooperation that was demonstrated at the UK Government’s Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief last week, and the relationships that will be forged to ensure continued work, will be essential in demonstrating the power of a collaborative holistic approach to a global problem.

We can no longer turn away or fail to recognize the destructive character of the persecution faced by millions of people around the world solely because of the faith they have or want to have, or what they choose to believe. , or even not to believe.

Sitting in our own silos is no longer an option and pretending not to see the suffering of others either. It is time for us to see these violations as violations against the humanity that we share and to aspire to collaborative action that leads to solutions.

The main theme of the Ministerial Conference was freedom of religion or belief for all (FoRB For All). This set the tone for many conversations about equal access to the rights to have, change, and express a faith or religion, as well as whether or not to have a creed. There is no doubt that not all of us will agree with the choices each one makes and yet we would agree that it is that particular person’s choice to make based on their inherent and inalienable right to do.

Advocates and policymakers have worked for decades to enshrine the various rights we are all entitled to in international treaties and charters. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains such a right and it reads as follows: “we all have the right to have our own beliefs, to have a religion, to have no religion or change it”. It is the foundation upon which we build various initiatives that address violations that contradict it.

Ongoing research and empirical evidence repeatedly proves that violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief will often act as a preliminary indicator of a broader context of violations of other rights. It has also been proven that a violation of these rights has a negative impact on entire communities because it deprives many of their members and prevents these communities from reaping the benefits of their contribution and interaction.

If we speak from a Christian point of view, we recognize that God created all equally and with equal rights and therefore it becomes our responsibility to speak on behalf of those who are deprived of these rights. A violation against one is a violation against all of us.

That said, religious and denominational communities will sometimes diminish their own credibility by merely looking out for their own interests, appearing self-centered and self-serving. But the best models we have seen are those where one community advocates for another because of its deep belief in realizing the inherent human dignity of each person.

The past week has seen politicians, policy makers, advocates and religious leaders come together around the theme of freedom of religion or belief. However, it is by no means their sole responsibility to safeguard these rights. We all have an interest and we all have a responsibility. It starts with awareness and education and continues with the desire to make a difference and reach out to those who may need our support.

When we get to a point where we want to help, we must also remember to approach this from a position of humility and a desire to help those affected rather than just fulfilling a program, no matter how honorable, which we are affiliated with.

These violations are against individuals and communities, they are against real people who are in real pain and in need of real support and they must always be placed at the heart and center of everything we do.

I pray that last week’s Ministerial meeting gives us the opportunity to serve some of the most vulnerable people in the world who have simply chosen to live life as they see it according to their own conscience and conviction.

I also pray for peace and protection for the millions of people who are now directly or indirectly affected by war and conflict in areas plagued by violations of freedom of religion or belief, among other fundamental human rights, and which are moved inside or outside from the outside.

I pray that they can find peace and stability, and that we can play a role, however small, in being a voice for them, empowering them and allowing them to speak for themselves. , and by being a clear and effective course of action that gives them stability and restores their dignity.

By His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos OBE, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, Papal Legate to the United Kingdom. He is also the founder and director of Refcemi, the Coptic Orthodox Office