International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief

NEWS RELEASE: An Embattled Right: Protecting and Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BERLIN, GERMANY – Over 100 Parliamentarians from 60 countries are meeting in Berlin this week, 12-14 September 2016, with the German Chancellor, Dr. Angela Merkel, to agree to ways in which they can work together to protect and promote freedom of religion or belief for all.

IPPFoRB network participants pose for a photo in front of the German Reichstag in Berlin (12 September, 2016)

IPPFoRB network participants pose for a photo in front of the German Bundestag in Berlin (12 September, 2016)

Speaking of the challenge ahead, David Anderson, a Member of Parliament from Canada and a member of the IPPFoRB Steering Group said:

“Make no mistake, with 74% of the world’s population living in countries with high or very high restrictions or hostilities, freedom of religion or belief is an embattled right and the defining issue of our time. Freedom to believe is what shapes our common humanity and, if we are not careful, we risk losing it.”

Parliamentarians are meeting in Berlin at the invitation of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the IPPFoRB for a series of workshops and seminars aimed at building their capacity to defend this right.

Speaking of the unique role that parliamentarians have to play in this battle, Mr. Abid Raja, a Member of Parliament from Norway and member of the IPPFoRB Steering Group said:

“We can win the battle for religious freedom if parliamentarians are resourced and equipped to create and enact appropriate legislation and/or modify existing legislation. That is the purpose for which IPPFoRB was created. This week we have looked at ways that parliamentarians can help create an atmosphere where religious communities are able to co-exist peacefully and governments respect, protects, fulfils and promotes the right to freedom of religion or belief for all.”

During the course of the week, Parliamentarians addressed specific freedom of religion or belief concerns in Eritrea, Pakistan, Sudan, Myanmar and Vietnam. Leonardo Quintao, a Senator in Brazil and a member of the IPPFoRB Steering Group said:

“We know from past experience that when parliamentarians come together to express, both in public and in private, concern about serious societal hostility and governmental transgressions against freedom of religion or belief, that we have the ability to affect positive change. I very much hope that our advocacy efforts this week will help strengethen freedom of religion or belief in these countries of concern.”

Head of the German Government, Dr. Angela Merkel will open the final day – a Symposium open to the general public and hosted by the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in the Bundestag. Commenting on Chancellor Merkel’s involvement in this event, Baroness Berridge, a member of the British House of Lords and member of the IPPFoRB Steering Group said:

“I would like to thank the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel for opening the final day of the conference and joining the IPPFoRB in working to promote and defend freedom of religion and belief. Every day, people are facing discrimination, persecution and death because of their beliefs and initiatives like this, with world leaders like Chancellor Merkel, are crucial to show that we parliamentarians do care, we are taking action and together we will bring about change. It doesn’t matter which country we come from or belief system, this challenge is a concern for us all.”

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For more information:

Ed Brown, Advisor, Norwegian Helsinki Committee and IPPFoRB Secretariat,  + 47 977 25015

Dr. Charles William Reed, IPPFoRB Secretariat, + 44 759 0255999

The International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) is an informal network of parliamentarians and legislators from around the world committed to combatting religious persecution and advancing freedom of religion or belief, as defined by Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Visit the IPPFoRB website http://ippforb.com, for more information.