UN Expert on Religious Freedom Calls for Greater Support

Dr Gallagher (L) with Dr Jahangir

Geneva, Switzerland… In an April 6 meeting with non-government organizations, United Nations special rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief Asma Jahangir called for greater support of the fundamental liberties of conscience.

Speaking in the context of the transition from the Commission on Human Rights to the new Human Rights Council, she argued for greater involvement from civil society to advance religious freedom.

"Freedom of religion or belief for everyone is only possible in a world where there is the possibility of accommodation of, respect for, and toleration of, the religion of others," Jahangir stated. "This first Human Rights Council will be make or break. Candidate countries must have a reasonable record of human rights, and must have standing invitations to special rapporteurs to visit, otherwise it must be presumed that they wish to obstruct rather than promote human rights."

Meeting in progress

Responding to a question from Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, UN representative of the International Religious Liberty Association, regarding how NGOs could be more involved, Jahangir suggested more participation at UN human rights meetings and a joint statement from NGOs. Such a statement would pledge to continue to advance freedom of religion or belief, to identify what governments and religious leaders should be doing, and to ensure that all interfaith dialogues should have the goal of building tolerance, respect, and providing space for others.

"Freedom of religion or belief will only prosper when the broader perspective of human rights is respected," Jahangir concluded. "I look forward to new UN Human Rights Council where the work should concentrate on the universality and indivisibility of human rights." [IRLA News]