Religious and secular groups unite to declare freedom of belief is a right


Date:                       June 28, 2018


Christian women in Eritrea pray together but have to do so in secret. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Christians in Eritrea have to pray in secret. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

An alliance of religious and secular charities has launched an online campaign to raise awareness of the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).

“Believe it or not, it’s my right!” is the slogan of the movement launched on Tuesday 26 June by the European Platform against Intolerance and Discrimination (EPRID), whose members include Christian, Jewish, Bahai, Mormon, Buddhist organisations, and other religious liberty groups, including humanists.

The initiative invites members of the public to commit to being a “FoRB defender” by visiting and tweeting or posting on Facebook or Instagram photos of themselves holding the “Believe it or not” logo.

Amy Shepherd, EU Advocacy Manager for CSW, which is a 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… 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.”

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The initiative has been jointly developed by EPRID, the European Humanist Federation (EHF), International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), the Nordic Ecumenical Network on Freedom of Religion or Belief (NORFORB), and CSW, formerly Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

EPRID explained in a statement: “The #FoRBDefender movement … 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.”

“Freedom of Religion or Belief is way too precious a human right to take for granted. We have to stand united in defending and promoting it, close to home but also in the rest of the world,” the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA), one of the founding members of EPRID, said, calling on its members to support and promote the campaign.

The Washington DC-based Pew Research Center found that restrictions on religion around the world continued to climb in its most recent reporting period, 2016, as more governments tightened controls on religious practices, populist parties increasingly used rhetoric to attack religious minorities, and the harassment of religious groups increased.

Pew also indicated that around 80 per cent of the world’s population suffer discrimination, oppression or violence because of their religion or belief, and that no belief group, including atheists, is exempt from FoRB violations.

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