Combatting intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief
NCHR's Lena Larsen participated as rapporteur at the high level conference "Combatting Intolerance and Discrimination, with a focus on Discrimination based upon Religion or Belief: Towards a Comprehensive Response in the OSCE region" in Rome last week.
Photo: OSCE/Angelo Cordeschi
The objectives of the conference were to examine existing challenges in the area of hate crimes, and the security of religious communities.The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) organised the Conference.
Non-discrimination essential for FoRB
The concept of non-discrimination was discussed as the basis for the enjoyment of the freedom of religion or belief. This included the following main topcs: the role of public and private educational programmes as a mean to promote mutual respect and understanding; identifying ways for OSCE's participating states in addressing intolerance and discrimination on religious grounds; ensuring equal participation of women and men; discussing how different religious or belief communities learn from each other to address discrimination and intolerance in an inclusive manner, ensuring that both women’s and men’s voices are heard and concerns are addressed; and highlighting good practices for legislation as an effective tool to combat discrimination.
Good practices in addressing intolerance and discrimination
The aim of the first session was to analyse how OSCE participating States are responding to intolerance and discrimination against Christians, Muslims, Jews and other religions or beliefs. Furthermore, it sought to explore the way governments and institutions counter stereotypes, hate speech, discrimination and hate crimes.
The conference was a meeting place between states and civil society, and it was interesting to witness different perceptions of specific challenges, says Lena Larsen, head of the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
In her report Lena Larsen referred to the Oslo Principles on Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief, and held the following points as a necessary basis for addressing intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief:
- The right to FoRB protects the person or persons holding beliefs or convictions. It does not protect religion or belief as such.
- The right to FoRB includes the right to have an interpretation of one’s own tradition that differs from the dominant interpretation within that tradition and seeks to manifest it accordingly.
- A range of approaches is needed to protect and promote FoRB, including through addressing violations, monitoring and reporting, legal revision, capacity building, education, dialogue, and interdisciplinary knowledge building.
The number of objectives were ambitious for a one-day conference. However, the reports on challenges of combating antisemitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination against Christians, Muslims and people of other religions, by the Personal Representatives to the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, followed by a wide range of presentations in the four panel session, provided solid information crucial to addressing the challenges in the field.