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.