Date: June 27, 2018
By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
NEW MALDEN, SURREY, U.K. (ANS – June 27, 2018) -- In many countries it is not safe for people to be open about their religion or belief.
The right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, commonly abbreviated to "FoRB", affects everyone. The campaign slogan is: “Believe it or not, it’s my right!”
Now a new campaign for the freedom of religion and belief has been launched to highlight the right of everyone to believe – or not.
FoRB represents the fundamental freedom to follow your conscience and live according to a worldview of your choice. It incorporates freedom of thought on all matters, covers theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, and means that you can adopt, practice and leave any religion without judgement on the content of beliefs, including the right not to believe.
FoRB is protected by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) -- among other international treaties. The meaning and scope of Article 18 UDHR has been explored by the UN Human Rights Committee in its General Comment No. 22, and regular reports by the UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB help to define and shape debate on international FoRB-related issues.
“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.” -- Article 18, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
FoRB has two dimensions:
- The forum internum protects the absolute right of individuals to choose what to think and believe without coercion, indoctrination or other outside interference. It includes the right to form opinions, hold personal convictions, including those that others might find objectionable or offensive, and privately adhere to a religion or belief system - or none.
- The forum externum protects the right of individuals to express, privately or publicly and alone or in community with others, their deeply held convictions, for example through ceremony and ritual, display of symbols or wearing of clothing, observance of dietary requirements and use of a particular language. Public manifestations of religion or belief do not require State permission but may be restricted by the State where necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of others.
The ForB website (https://forb-defenders.org) says: “It is essential for the full enjoyment of FoRB that individuals are able to declare and display their deeply-held convictions.
“FoRB encompasses the right to share your views and encourage others to adopt your beliefs -- with the caveat that disinterested persons have an equal right to refuse to engage with proselytism. Parents have the right to teach their children in conformity with their own convictions, and religion or belief communities sharing a common worldview have the right to gather together, appoint leaders and erect and maintain buildings and other sites in order to explore their religion or belief through worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
The campaign says the right to FoRB sits at the epicenter of human rights. “It is particularly closely connected with freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and it intersects with other human rights and issues including women's rights, children's rights, security and development.
“Without FoRB, no other civil and political rights can be realized. Violations of FoRB are also often an indicator of other human rights issues and an early warning of violence and conflict. For this reason, FoRB is often described as the ‘litmus test’ for society.”
The #FoRBDefender movement aims to:
- Raise awareness of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief (FoRB).
- Stand in solidarity with individuals and communities worldwide who suffer injustice and persecution because of their religion or belief - or none.
- Call on legislators, policymakers and diplomats to more robustly defend and protect FoRB in the world.
The European Platform against Intolerance and Discrimination (EPRID), of which U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide www.csw.org.uk is a member, yesterday (June 26) launched its new #FoRBDefender movement on freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, calling on people everywhere to unite under the slogan, “Believe it or not, it’s my Right!”
The #FoRBDefender movement is an online initiative that aims to raise awareness of the right to freedom of religion or belief (“FoRB”).
A CSW media release says it stands in solidarity with people across the globe facing discrimination, oppression and violence because of their religion or belief (including non-belief) and calls on high-level decision-makers at national and international level to more robustly defend and protect this fundamental human right.
Amy Shepherd, CSW’s EU Advocacy Manager and member of EPRID’s 2018 Board of Coordinators, said: “Across the world, people’s freedom to choose, manifest, change and abandon their religion or belief is under threat. There is an urgent need to stand up for FoRB and press decision-makers for more concrete and visible protective action. EPRID hopes that by reaching out to politicians, diplomats, media, business, civil society activists and others, the #FoRBDefender movement will show that FoRB protects everyone, and that everyone has a role to play in protecting FoRB.”
Jointly developed by EPRID, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), European Humanist Federation (EHF), International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and the Nordic Ecumenical Network on Freedom of Religion or Belief (NORFORB), the #FoRBDefender movement is centered on social media action. Supporters visiting www.forb-defenders.org are encouraged to commit to being “FoRB Defenders” and Tweet, Facebook or Instagram photos of themselves holding up the “Believe it or not” logo.
In 2013, the EU adopted Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief which set out how it intends to advance this fundamental right in external action. The #FoRBDefender movement has been inspired by EU-level discussions on how the Guidelines could be better implemented.
According to research by the Pew Research Centre, around 80% of the world’s population suffers discrimination, oppression or violence because of their religion or belief. No religion or belief group, including theists, non-theists and atheists, are exempt from FoRB violations.
EPRID is a network of civil society organizations, religious bodies and individuals operating at EU level.
CSW said: “We are convinced we need each other to get religious intolerance and discrimination higher on the European agenda.”
CSW is an advocacy organization defending and promoting the right to freedom of religion or belief in over 20 countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. As Christians, we stand with everyone facing injustice because of their religion or belief. www.csw.org.uk
Mailing address: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, CSW UK Office, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, PO Box 99, New Malden, Surrey KT3 3YF, United Kingdom
Photo captions: 1) #FoRB Campaign Logo. 2) CSW FoRB logo. 3) Journalist Michael Ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister, and an award-winning local cable-TV program host/producer who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. You may follow Michael on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/