Meeting of Experts in Florence, Italy

On August 19 to 21, 2014, the 16th IRLA Meeting of Experts convened at the beautiful Italian college, Villa Aurora, in Florence, Italy.

According to its yearly custom, the international think tank on religious freedom met to deepen our understanding and clarify the issues the international human rights community faces regarding religious freedom, international law and its implementation in local contexts.

This year’s general title and topics were as follows: Exploring Freedom of Religion in Secular Societies: How do Secularism and Human Dignity Interact in Questions of Gender and Religious Cultural Practices?

Topic 1:  Human Dignity under the Doctrine of Human Rights 

Topic 2:  Religious Minorities and Cultural Practices in Secular Societies

Topic 3:  Women’s Rights and Religiously Inspired Family Laws

The president of IRLA, Ambassador Robert Seiple opened the meetings welcoming all the participants from several different countries. Dr. John Graz provided an overview of the multifaceted work of IRLA around the world. He shared a report on the impact of the congresses, symposiums, festivals, liberty dinners, and meetings of experts. 

Professor Rosa Maria Martinez de Codes, who proposed the topics for this year’s program, provided a fitting general introduction to the topics that revolved around the three themes.

Dr. Ganoune Diop made the first presentation, specifying that in light of the current geopolitical state of our world—plagued with several genocides, religious, tribal and ethnic wars, the horrific abduction of hundreds of girls, and the massacre of young men—it would seem easier to talk about human depravity than to talk about human dignity. Nevertheless, in spite of the widespread trampling, neglect and ignorance of human dignity, this fundamental asset of human nature should not be dismissed but revisited along with freedom of belief in order to restore its foundational status.

Several persons made significant contributions on these topics.

  • Ganoune Diop – Revisiting “Religious Freedom” and “Human Dignity:” Assessing the Current Issues

  • Nicholas Miller – The Contributions of Dissenting Protestantism to Western Views of Human Dignity and Freedom

  • Alberto de la Hera – Human Dignity: A Catholic Contribution with Positive Consequences for Religious Minorities

  • Rosa Maria Martinez de Codes – Confronting Cultural Religious Identities in Colombia: The Loss of Catholic Monopoly                                

  • Jaime Rossell – Religious Minorities in Europe: A Troublesome Legal Order Concerning Food

  • Pasquale Annicchino – The Persecution of Religious and LGBT Minorities and Asylum Law: Recent Trends in the Adjudication of European Supranational Courts

  • Robert Seiple – The Highest Call for the Most Vulnerable: A Christian Perspective on Gender

  • Blandine Chilini-Pont – Women’s Equality and Family Law in France: A Complex Legal Issue

  • Jaime Contreras – Women in Islam, the Relevant Revolution

  • Amal Idrissi – Muslim Women Caught between Imaginary Islam and the Family Code: The Case of Morocco

  • Jeremy Gunn. Secularism and Separation of Religion and State in Islam.

Several papers presented at this year’s meeting will be published in the association’s journal, Fides et Libertas.

Next year’s meeting is scheduled to take place in Pepperdine, California with a new theme related to the burning and pressing issues our world faces in reference to religious freedom.

 - - Dr. Ganoune Diop, Director United Nations Relations