Humanists well-represented at International FoRB Ministerial


  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 7 July 2022

This week, the UK government hosted the fourth International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Delegates from across the globe – government ministers, civil society actors and representatives of religion or belief groups – traveled to London to attend a plethora of official and fringe events. Humanists were well-represented among their number thanks to the work of Humanists International Member organization Humanists UK.

High on the agenda was “promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities around the world so that everyone, everywhere can practise their own religion or belief freely.” Topics centered on one of three themes, prevention, protection and promotion.

Roslyn Mould, Humanists International Board member

Reflecting on the meeting, Board Member of Humanists International Roslyn Mould, who spoke during the Ministerial on the role of civil society as a driver for change to, stated:

“The international ministerial conference in FoRB has been a great opportunity to not only bring together people of various faiths as well as humanists and civil society organisations and key stakeholders of FoRB in the UK and from around the world working on issues of FoRB and the violations of human rights linked to FoRB but also, it’s been an intensive 2 days of sharing the work of humanist organisations and raising awareness of blasphemy cases and various forms of discrimination including the anti-LGBTI bill before Ghana’s Parliament seeking to criminalise the community and allies for up to 10 years imprisonment.”

Running in parallel to the main sessions, fringe events. Humanists UK, together with partners, organized seven events over the course of the two-day meeting discussing a broad range of topics:

  • Measuring freedom: quantifying progress and warning signs for FoRB around the world
  • Secularism and FoRB
  • Learning FoRB: the role of schools and education
  • Freedom of Religion or Belief in Nigeria
  • The ongoing criminalization of so-called ‘blasphemy’ and ‘apostasy’ across the globe
  • The impact of COVID-19 on FoRB
  • And, the prevention of violence in the name of FoRB.

Panelists for these events included a range of religious and non-religious voices and viewpoints, State representatives, as well as Humanists International’s Board members Roslyn Mould and Dr. Leo Igwe, Ambassador Gulalai Ismail, and Casework & Campaigns Manager, Emma Wadsworth-Jones.

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International

Speaking during the opening ceremony of the ministerial, Humanists International President – speaking in his capacity as Executive Director of Humanists UK – Andrew Copson made plain that:

“If FoRB is to be for everyone everywhere, we must all resist the temptation to impose our beliefs on others. This is how so many violations of FoRB originate. That is true of the Christian in China whose atheist government prevents her from congregating freely as her conscience leads her and of the non-religious woman in the West when Christians in her Government block her conscientious choice of an abortion or any other practice. Illiberal totalitarianism, whether atheist, Christian, Islamic: many forces limit freedom of religion or belief today. All of us are in the minority somewhere and all of us have brothers and sisters subject somewhere to the vilest of persecution.”

Despite the active participation of representatives of the humanist community, it remains startlingly clear that considerably more work is to be done to ensure that there is a truly inclusive understanding of FoRB as a right for all that cannot and should not be instrumentalized to limit the rights of others.

After two days of events, national governments were invited to sign on to one or all of seven thematic statements related to themes discussed during the conference, including: youth, civil society, gender equality, cultural heritage, digital technology, conflict and education.


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