World Council of Churches - News
EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL THE MEASURE FOR ASSESSING FREEDOM OF RELIGION
For immediate release: 06 December 2011
An international study process developed by the World Council of Churches
(WCC) is preparing a report on freedom of religion as a fundamental human
right for all.
The fundamental rights of freedom of religion or belief are often violated
by both governments and individuals, acting either on their own behalf or as
members of majority groups. Despite significant initiatives taken by states
and the international community, religious minorities in several parts of
world are becoming the targets of discrimination, acts of violence or
hostility and persecution because of their religion.
The extent to which freedom of religion or belief can be considered as an
absolute right in pluralistic societies, as well as its relation to various
aspects of human rights, was the centre of discussion among experts who
participated at an international consultation organized by the WCC's
Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA).
Equal rights of all individuals in any society should be the broader
parameter which should be seen beyond legal measures when addressing the
issue of the Freedom of Religion and belief in today's global context:
This was the principle emphasized by thirty experts from 23 countries in
Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.
The consultation was held in Istanbul, Turkey from 28 November to 2 December
and hosted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, vice-moderator of WCC Central Committee,
opening the international consultation, stated that "the role of all
religions and their adherents must take special interest in protecting the
rights of all individuals irrespective of their religious affiliations.
Protecting the rights of believers of all religions must be important in
fostering peace with justice and equality."
Ambassador Theodoros J. Theodorou of Greece said in his keynote presentation
that "Nations must take seriously the provisions of international human
rights treaties by integrating them into their own legal systems. More
systematic efforts need to be made so that governments around the world
enact the meaningful legislation designated to curb religious persecutions."
Religious freedom a historic focus of WCC
The history of the WCC's contributions in addressing concerns related to
freedom of religion and human rights was recalled by CCIA director Dr
Mathews George Chunakara.
He pointed out that the CCIA, which was formed in 1946 jointly by the
International Missionary Council and the structure preparing the foundation
of the WCC, undertook as one of its first tasks to press for international
standards on religious freedom. WCC's contribution to drafting article 18 of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) has been widely recognized.
"All countries and their governments which ratified various human rights
declarations or conventions and covenants, including the 1981 UN Declaration
on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based
on Religion or Belief (Link:
), are obliged
to uphold the human rights of all citizens. But in reality this is not being
observed and more and more people are facing serious threats to their right
to freedom of religion and the right to exist as religious minorities," said
A report on religious freedom will be presented to the next CCIA meeting
which is to be held in the People's Republic of China in June 2012.
Christina Papazoglou, WCC programme executive for human rights, said that
the "study consultation has analyzed reports from 27 countries in five
regions, and several examples of violations have been highlighted from
various countries as well as positive responses showing ways to protect
freedom of religion."
"In moving forward," Papazoglou added, "the participants in the consultation
have encouraged the full participation of church leaders in public life and
the involvement of political, religious and social institutions in upholding
the right of religious freedom. Furthermore, they emphasized the need for
strengthening the existing protection mechanisms and devising effective
safeguards against violations of national and international law relating to
The study process on Freedom of Religion and Rights of Religious Minorities
was initiated by the CCIA in its 50th meeting held in Albania in 2010, and a
special working group has been formed by the CCIA to evaluate the study.
More information on the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs
Read also: Ecumenical Patriarch highlights freedom of religion and minority
) (WCC press release of 1 December 2011)
The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and
service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches
founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox,
Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in
over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.
The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran]
Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.