The right to Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is guaranteed in core international human rights instruments. It is considered part of customary international law. It includes a broad range of rights, such as the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of one’s choice, and the freedom to live out one’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching, in public or private. Moreover, it places a duty on States to refrain from discriminating against individuals or groups because of their religion or belief. It includes the obligation to take necessary measures to prevent discrimination or violence by non-State actors.
Unfortunately, in many countries across the world this right is not respected. Minorities face discrimination at multiple levels.
At a personal level this can include being refused entry to public places, name calling, societal exclusion and psychological trauma.
At a societal / structural level this includes lack of access to education, work, politics and wider social participation.
In the worst cases this can lead to violence, the destruction of places of worship, forced displacement and even genocide.
In many countries this discrimination is deep rooted and historical. Conflict along ethnic and religious lines has created a climate of distrust and intolerance especially towards minority groups, leading to a breakdown in social cohesion and harmony. Even local organisations are likely to hold personal biases and feed into stereotypes.
Organisations representing communities have a critical role to play in countering narratives of division. Cord is working with them to challenge their own personally held biases / perceptions and beliefs about minority religions and ethnic groups. Cord is supporting these organisations to examine their own actions and projects to think where they are unintentionally perpetuating negative stereotypes and where they might be a voice of challenge to discriminatory practices.
The partners we are working with have testified to a shift in their own views and a realisation of the propaganda of divisive government policies aimed at marginalising certain groups in order to maintain control. They are exploring the issues in their communities, bringing a greater focus to the damage of discrimination, hate speech, and bias at the community level.