Tag Archives: parliament

Parliamentary Seminar on Freedom of Religion and Belief

Source: Freedom to Believe

The UK Baha’i community, working with the All Party Parliamentary Friends of the Baha’is, has held the first of three seminars on the theme of “freedom of religion and belief” in the UK Parliament.

The aim of the seminars is to promote a wider debate and acceptance of this basic human right which was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 25th November 1981. The seminars coincide with the 25th anniversary of the proclamation.

This first seminar was held on 24th July and was attended by a wide variety of organizations, including the Minority Rights Group, Forum 18, UK Friends of the Falun Gong, Three Faiths Forum, the Jain Samaj and the British Humanist Association, as well as the Baha’i community of the United Kingdom and Members of the UK Parliament.

Issues that were debated included:

  • The question of faith schools and the degree to which they protect a religious community and whether they act as a bar to religious choice.
  • How states who claim to be tolerant of religious diversity, but are not, can be addressed by the international community.
  • A statement that was offered on reports of organ harvesting and other repression of members of the Falun Gong in China.
  • How do we define what is a religion, and are there parameters. Should we accept different interpretations within a religion that represent the extremist view of that religion?
  • Can new machinery and resources be made available to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom and Religion?
  • Can the 1981 declaration be made into an obligation?

Barney Leith, Secretary for External Affairs of the Baha’i community of the UK, stated that while the world-wide Baha’i community has a good understanding of the importance of freedom of religion and belief through its own experiences, the series of seminars is to promote a better understanding of this freedom as a universal human right. He invited those attending to take a copy of the Baha’i International Community’s statement, Freedom to Believe, which sets out the Baha’i position on this particular right. Barney Leith also called for human rights education to be given greater prominence in the British educational system.


Baha’i World News Service report of the first seminar
Anniversary Event in Prague
Universal Declaration on Human Rights
Barney Leith’s blog. [Relevant entries: 1 2]

Hapy Naw Ruz, from the leaders of parliament.

The Baha’i New Year, Naw-Ruz, was celebrated on 21st March. Leaders of the three main political parties in Britain and the First Minister for Scotland have been sent to the Baha’i community to mark the occasion.

A special reception was held at the House of Commons which was attended by over 90 people including MPs, a peer, and officials from a number of departments, as well as members of all the other major faiths in the UK.

From the Prime Minister:

“I am very pleased to be able to send my best wishes to the Baha’i
community on such a special occasion as Naw-Ruz. I am sorry that I
cannot be with you at this festival of hope and celebration.

“I warmly commend all that the Baha’i community does for social
cohesion and better inter-faith relations, which makes such a
valuable contribution to our society. Your commitment to tackling
discrimination and promoting our shared humanity is particularly
important. I hope that this work will become increasingly well-known.

“I trust that all members of the Baha’i community will find in Naw- Ruz a true time of renewal, giving them strength and inspiration for
the year ahead.”

[Signed] Tony Blair

From the Rt. Honourable David Cameron MP, Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition:

March 2006

Happy Naw-Ruz!

I would like to wish all members of the Baha’i community a very Happy New

There is no doubt that your faith’s belief in the breaking down of barriers
that separate people is a lesson to us all, as we face the national and
international challenges of our day.

The importance you place on principles such as social justice, and the need
to tackle prejudice, has stood the test of time. These principles are as
vital today as they were a century and a half ago.

May I commend also your belief in the value of individual human initiative,
the importance of family life, and the need to strengthen communities and to review and advance society as a whole.

The Naw-Ruz celebration is, itself, an occasion for families and friends to
be brought together. May I once again extend my good wishes to you all at
this time.

[Signed] David Cameron

From Sir Menzies Cambpbell MP, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party:

“On behalf of myself and the Party I now have the honour to
represent, I send all my best wishes to the Baha’i community in the
United Kingdom – and indeed around the world, on this very special
celebration of Naw-Ruz.

“I have enormous respect and admiration for both the philosophy and
culture which the Baha’i faith embraces and represents. Particularly,
I am proud of the work you do in conjunction with my fellow Liberal
Democrat Parliamentarians regarding human rights abroad. I know that
in Iran there is much to do before the Baha’i faith can live without
fear of intimidation or persecution. However, I am confident that
this end will be achieved through our collective effort.

“Please accept my very best wishes for now and the future.”

[Signed] Menzies Campbell

From the First Minister for Scotland, Jack McConnell MSP:

7 March 2006

First Minister of Scotland

Dear Allan,

I am delighted to offer you greetings from Scottish
Ministers for Naw-Ruz, the Baha’i New Year, which
your community will be celebrating on 21 March.

I hope this year will prove to be peaceful for all our
faith communities with a reduction in religious tensions
around the world and at home. In Scotland, we are
committed to addressing such issues by working
closely with our faith communities in an atmosphere
of honesty, inclusion and respect.

We will continue to promote Scotland’s multicultural
and multi-faith society and our Government values the
support of the Baha’i community.

I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Best wishes

[Signed] Jack McConnell

Gregorian Dates of special Bahá’í days in coming years. Click to enlarge.