Parliamentary Meeting on Freedom of Religion or Belief
THAILAND — From 6 to 8 October 2017, parliamentarians from around the world – including many of APHR’s members from ASEAN member states – met in Bangkok, Thailand, for a workshop on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Southeast Asia, co-organized by APHR and the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB). The meeting was attended by APHR members from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Singapore.
The meeting aimed to challenge the growing threats to freedom of religion or belief across the ASEAN region by engaging lawmakers and providing them with knowledge and resources to be advocates of these fundamental freedoms in their own countries and at the regional level.
Some of the issues discussed included threats to pluralism, blasphemy laws, gender and FoRB, identity politics, and violent extremism – all salient issues in the ASEAN region today. Members of parliament from outside Southeast Asia – including from Canada, Pakistan, Panama, and South Africa – supplemented the discussions by sharing their experiences advocating for freedom of religion or belief in their own countries and regions.
The meeting was also attended by civil society representatives from around the region, which provided a chance for participants to explore opportunities to build relationships that might support long-term, successful engagement and collaboration between parliamentarians and other stakeholders on FoRB issues.
The MPs also had the opportunity to sign advocacy letters to political leaders in Myanmar, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia, which focused on specific religious freedom concerns in those countries and suggested ways to better protect fundamental rights.