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Equal rights for all the measure of religious freedom

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  • John Brian
    World Council of Churches - News EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL THE MEASURE FOR ASSESSING FREEDOM OF RELIGION For immediate release: 06 December 2011 An international
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 6, 2011
      World Council of Churches - News


      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:
      http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=235bdda6280d29140522 ), 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
      Mathews George.

      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
      religious freedom."

      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
      (Link: http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=d9d0d1fe278d743f97bc )

      Read also: Ecumenical Patriarch highlights freedom of religion and minority
      rights (Link:
      ) (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.
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