Wednesday 27 May, marked the launch of a Norwegian Parliamentary group for the promotion of freedom of religion and belief. Representatives of all political parties supported the initiative.
It was parliamentary representative Abid Raja (V) which, together with Vice-President Marit Disputas (A) and representatives Sylvi Graham (H), Kristian Norheim (FRP), Kjell Ingolf Ropstad (KrF), Bård Vegard Solhjell (SV) and Rasmus Hansson (MDG) invited to kick-off meeting for the Parliamentary religious group.
The aim of the group is to promote freedom of religion and freedom of belief, and it is open to all members of parliament.
The founding meeting opened with an introduction by founder Abid Raja. Then, representatives from Stefanus Alliance International , International Law and Policy Institute and Amnesty International brief introductions on the subject of religion and livsynsfrihet under pressure.
This initiative is part of a larger international movement, and several similar groups are emerging in parliaments around the world, including Canada, Brazil and Pakistan.
The inspiration for the formation of these groups both in Norway and internationally was a meeting in Oslo last November, where MPs from 27 countries came together in Parliament to discuss freedom of religion. The meeting resulted in the formation of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) and a declaration on religious freedom was signed at the Nobel Peace Centre. Abid Raja is a member of IPPFoRB.
“All Norwegian governments have been working for human rights, both in Norway and internationally, but has often been limited by the diplomatic channels they have available. I think parliamentarians in the world can make a difference if we manage to organize ourselves”, says Raja.
“This initiative started in June 2014 with politicians from six countries gathering in Oxford. Then, we managed to gather MPs from well over 20 countries in Oslo in November. In mid-September we are planning our next gathering in New York, supported by German CDU and Konrad Andenauer Stiftung, where we expect to see just under 100 parliamentarians in attendance.
The Norwegian Parliamentary group intends to constitute itself with a board. The group will work to put the spotlight on freedom of religion or belief, both in Norway and internationally, and hopes to host a larger gathering or conference in the autumn. Members of the group will also attend the gathering in New York this September.
“We who have security here in Norway must show solidarity with our colleagues in other countries who daily fighting a battle for religious freedom, often with their own and their family’s lives at stake”, says Raja.