In the face of rising religious persecution of people on the grounds of faith or belief, 67 parliamentarians from almost 50 countries attended an unprecedented summit in New York to discuss ways to advance freedom of religion or belief.
South African delegates were ACDP Member of Parliament, Cheryllyn Dudley, who has been a member of The International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) since The Oslo meeting in November 2014, and Nqabayomzi Kwankwawas, United Democratic Movement Chief Whip.
The gathering issued advocacy letters to the President of Burma, the Prime Minister of Vietnam, and the Speaker of Iran’s parliament. In addition, the parliamentarians signed the New York Resolution for Freedom of Religion or Belief, committing them to renewed action to promote this fundamental right.
The event was co-sponsored by the IPPFoRB, a network launched last year in response to the rising crisis of religious or belief-based persecution, both by terrorist groups and authoritarian governments. IPPFoRB is an alliance of parliamentarians committed to advancing religious freedom for all, as defined by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Other highlights included:
- Panels with leading parliamentarians and diplomats discussing how to advance freedom of religion or belief for all in the face of repression by ISIS and authoritarian governments.
- Discussions with religious leaders, including a cleric from Iran, a bishop from Nigeria, and a Buddhist leader from Japan.
- Hearing from family members of jailed believers in Iran: the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini and a relative of an imprisoned Baha’i leader. After listening to a presentation by Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, the parliamentarians signed a letter to the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament calling for Pastor Saeed’s release.
Signatories to the advocacy letters came from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, European Parliament, Georgia, Germany, Honduras, India, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan, Taiwan, Tunisia, United Kingdom and Uruguay.