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Freedom of belief ‘key indicator’ of wider human rights

Protection of religious freedom is “at the heart of the rights of minorities” says the UN.

On 22 October the Non-Governmental Organizations Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the United Nations hosted an event on the importance of the freedom of religion acting as an overall indicator of human rights protections.

United Nations Special Rapporteurs Ahmed Shaheed for freedom of religion or belief, Karima Bennoune for cultural rights, and Fernand de Varennes for minority issues came together to discuss the topic and set goals for the future. They focused on the global situation of religious freedom and how this impacts and acts as a barometer for the legal recognition of human rights more broadly.

“From religious belief comes the idea that every human being is equal to one another,” said Ahmed Shaheed.

“Infringements on freedom of religion or belief serve as the early warning signs of violent conflict. It is not only a barometer of other human rights, it is central to providing human rights more broadly. Freedom of religion or belief is at the heart of rights of minorities,” said Dr de Varennes.

Recent studies show that protections for the freedom of religion on a national level often provide for an overall higher recognition of human rights. Understanding how and why this correlation exists is important for the promotion of religious freedom and human rights overall on an international level. The three special rapporteurs contributed to the international conversation on this topic.

“Violations of the freedom of religion are often closely linked to or lead to violations of other human rights. We are glad to host this event and broaden the discussion on this link. Similarly, the protection of religious freedom also leads to increased legal recognition of other human rights. We hope to increase the realization of this in the international community,” said Kelsey Zorzi (right) who moderated the discussion and serves as President of the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom at ADF International.

This event comes at a crucial time as little has been done to uphold religious freedom. ADF International has documented these shortcomings in the white paper The UN’s Failure to Promote and Protect Religious Freedom.

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