Parliamentarians engage with international partners at the US Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom
From 15 to 17 July 2019, the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) brought four parliamentarians from Canada, Indonesia and South Africa to the US Ministerial to Advance the Religious Freedom, in Washington, D.C. This was the occasion for them to engage with a broad range of partners, including senior government officials, international organizations, religious leaders and civil society activists.
During the three days Ministerial participants discussed challenges facing religious freedom, and identified means to address religious persecution and discrimination worldwide and ways to promote greater respect of religious liberty for all. The Ministerial built on the Potomac Declaration and Plan of Action released last year, which was “proposed by the United States government for activities that the international community can draw from to promote religious freedom and respond to abuses and violations of religious freedom or instances of persecution on account of religion, belief, or non-belief.”
In order to raise awareness on the role of parliamentarians in championing freedom of religion and belief (ForB), IPPFoRB organised the panel: “Parliamentarians Working Together to Advance Religious Freedom.” The Panel included MP David Anderson from Canada, MP Lena Maryana Mukti from Indonesia, and MP Ngabayomzi Kwankwa from South Africa. It was the occasion to showcase the work and advocacy done by IPPFoRB, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), the Southeast Asia Parliamentarian for Freedom of Religion or Belief (SEAPFoRB), as well as the African Parliamentarians Association for Human Rights (AfriPAHR). MPs also shared their respective experiences in promoting FoRB in their countries, highlighting the importance to collaborate with various actors in the society.
While MP Anderson encouraged actions at home by saying, “you need us as parliamentarians, and we need you. I encourage you to return home and take action by standing by legislators showing courage on FoRB’, MP Kwankwa from South Africa highlighted his commitment: ‘we seek office to ensure that constitutional language on FoRB is defended’. MP Mukti, on the other hand, mentioned that “Our party, United Development Party , lost major seats at the recent election due to our support to non-muslim Jakartan Governor candidate, known as Ahok. But we do not want to trade our commitment to diversity, pluralism and FoRB principles with election gains.”
The Panel can be watched here (min 27:00).
To strenghten the relationship between civil society organisations (CSOs) and the IPPFoRB, a sideline panel was organised at the George Washington University to discuss ways and means CSOs can use to better engage legislators, provide them with relevant and useful information, and concrete recommendations on how to increase prevention of FoRB violations.
At the US Ministerial side event, held at the George Washington University, MPs Kelly Block, Lena Maryana Mukti and Nqabayomzi Kwankwa shared their experiences and perspectives.
The Ministerial was attended by high-level stakeholders, multi-faith advocates of FoRB and important international and regional mechanisms on FoRB such as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on FoRB, the EU Special Envoy on FoRB, the Commissioners of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Norwegian Special Envoy on FoRB, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, H.E. Tony Blair, and the Speaker of the U.S. House of the Representatives. It was also attended by survivors of religious persecutions worldwide, representing the Rohingya, Uyghur, Yazidiz, Jews minority, Christian minority in Sri Lanka, among others. All of them brought the important messages of peaceful and stable living among nations, as well as the need to advance religious freedom.