Statement on Freedom of Religion or Belief
A Statement from the Faith Communities Forum of the Inter Faith Network for the UK
This week, the UK Government is hosting an International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The focus of the Inter Faith Network for the UK is the United Kingdom. However, we welcome the Ministerial Conference and its delegates in the context of this work. Our vision is of a society where there is understanding of the diversity and richness of the faith communities in the UK and the contribution that they make; and where we live and work together with mutual respect and shared commitment to the common good.
The Inter Faith Network for the UK, the UK inter faith linking body, was established in 1987 and has worked since that time to support and encourage inter faith understanding and cooperation in the UK. This has contributed in no small measure to the creating of the conditions in which freedom of religion and belief can flourish. That freedom is not simply a matter of laws and conventions which ensure such freedom, vital though those are. Freedom of religion and belief is also about freedom to practise as freely as those laws, and other rights, permit.
Sadly, freedom of religion and belief is sometimes truncated by conditions that constrain their ease of expression. For example, for some communities the threat of hate crime and terrorist attack has meant their places of worship needing to operate with a high security. There is also the threat of physical violence and verbal harassment which are daily fears for some within communities which are identifiable by faith or ethnicity, as hate crime figures consistently show. Freedom might also be understood to be impinged upon where religion and belief are subject to misunderstanding and misrepresentation – with adherents repeatedly obliged to explain, correct and defend.
We recognise the complexity of life in a society where at times some rights are counterbalanced by others: the boundaries of those rights will always be subject to discussion, and, as necessary, adjudication.
Recourse to illegal actions, including violence, where there is disagreement should never be an option. It is vital that citizens have the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge to navigate life together within a shared society where there will always be differences of view – including of religion and belief. That is part of the warp and weft of a thriving civil society which undergirds and supports mutual respect and shared commitment to the common good.
4 July 2022
- Media queries to the Inter Faith Network: email firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Inter Faith Network for the UK www.interfaith.org.uk was founded in 1987 to advance public knowledge and mutual understanding of the teachings, traditions and practices of the different faith communities in Britain and to promote good relations between people of different faiths in this country. It works with its member bodies and others to carry out these aims.
- Member bodies of the Inter Faith Network include: national faith community representative bodies; national, regional and local inter faith bodies; and academic institutions and educational bodies concerned with inter faith issues. A list of member bodies can be found at www.interfaith.org.uk/members.
- IFN member National Faith Community Representative Bodies meet together as the Faith Communities Forum of IFN. https://www.interfaith.org.uk/about/faith-communities-forum
- Public issue statements by the Faith Communities Forum are developed by its Moderators and the Co-Chairs of the IFN Board. The Co-Chairs are the Revd Canon Hilary Barber and Mr Narendra Waghela. IFN’s current Moderators are: Co-Moderators: The Revd Canon Hilary Barber (Christian); and Malcolm Deboo (Zoroastrian); and Vice-Moderators: Minister David Bruton (Spiritualist); Mr Mohinder Singh Chana (Sikh); Mr Hassan Joudi (Muslim); Mr Neil Pitchford (Pagan); Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala (Buddhist); Mr Vinay Shah (Jain); Mrs Vinaya Sharma (Hindu); and Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg (Jewish).
- This statement can be found at http://interfaith.org.uk/resources/statements-and-messages and a copy of IFN’s statement making policy at https://www.interfaith.org.uk/uploads/Policy_on_making_of_statements.pdf.
- IFN is holding its AGM on the afternoon of 5 July. There will be a link to the focus of the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in its closing session