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Friday, December 9, 2016
Parliamentarians stress importance of religious freedom
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 Parliamentarians reaffirmed the centrality and precedence of religious freedom and religious rights during the first Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom held in Brussels from September 16 - 18. Sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, the Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom was attended by parliamentary delegations from nearly 25 countries from across Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East. The Conference included panel discussions with international experts on a series of national and international issues, including the relationship between religious freedom and the end of terrorism. On the final day of the Conference, the participating delegations and other interested parties debated and adopted the Declaration of the Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom. Among other things, the Declaration states that, "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief. Everyone has the freedom alone or in community with others and without any outside interference to express his/her religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance, within the limitations prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights or freedoms of others" The Declaration also states that, "No discrimination or privileges based on affiliation or rejection of affiliation to a religion are acceptable" The parliamentary delegations inserted language at the end of the Declaration calling for the formal and continued process of the Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom: "The Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom will convene annually to further the recognition and observance of the principles contained in this Declaration." "I cannot be more pleased by the tremendous work carried out by the parliamentarians," commented Institute President Joseph Grieboski, who will also serve as Secretary General of the Interparliamentary Conference at the request of the delegations. "The parliamentarians dedicated themselves to the irrefutable principles of freedom and liberty and enshrined them in the Declaration as the guidelines for continued discussions." Countries from which parliamentary delegations participated in the Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom included: Egypt, Romania, Kazakhstan, and Bosnia.
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