Times: Baroness Warsi leads international summit on freedom of religion and belief
Senior representatives from the Vatican, the United States and Canada are among those flying into Britain to discuss freedom of religion and belief at a high level meeting in London this week.
This is an issue particularly close to the heart of Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities, who is hosting the gathering of foreign ministers and representatives from around the world.
The Baroness, a practising Muslim who is the first female Muslim Government minister in the UK, wants to address the issue of religious freedom within the context of the UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18.
This resolution, passed in 2011, is aimed at combating intolerance, stigmatisation and advocacy of discrimination or violence on the basis of religion or belief.
It reaffirms the commitment made by all States under the United Nations Charter to promote and encourage universal respect for and observance of all human rights, including religion and belief, and their obligation to prohibit discrimination.
It also defends the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. And it recommends training of Government officials in effective “outreach” strategies to faith communities.
The meeting comes just a week after the landmark ruling in the European Court of Human Rights where one of the four cases brought by Christians was upheld. The judges ruled that Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee, had her rights violated when the company said she could not wear a cross over her uniform. The European Court ruling is expected to strengthen the rights of religious believers in the workplace and ensure that their freedom to express their faith is properly weighed against restrictions that employers may impose.
Significantly, this week’s meeting will involve many representatives from many states outside Europe.
Baroness Warsi told The Times: “Today’s meeting is an important step in opening up the discussion around religious intolerance and freedom of religion and belief worldwide. This is a personal priority for me which is why I’m bringing together a group of key ministers, ambassadors and senior advisers from around the world to explore this topic. I firmly believe that through building a deeper understanding of the shared issues we face together, and understanding more about each other’s viewpoints, we will be able to build on a stronger consensus on the issues of how best to deal with religious intolerance and guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief for all.”
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “Baroness Warsi will be hosting a high level ministerial meeting to discuss religious intolerance and freedom of religion and belief worldwide. This international issue is a plank at the heart of our human rights agenda and this meeting will enable us to discuss and how we can move international discussions forward on these issues within the framework of the UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18.
“We also want to build a deeper understanding of the shared issues we face together, and to understand more about each others’ viewpoints. Through this we hope to be able to build a stronger international consensus on the issues of how best to deal with religious intolerance and guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief for all.
“Those attending include ministers, ambassador and senior advisors from around the world.”