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White Paper on Freedom of Religion and Belief - 2018

  • White Paper
  • : English

The Arab world is known as the cradle of the Abrahamic religions, as well as the wellspring of ancient human civilizations. It is also particular for the diversity of its peoples, with their various roots and languages. Today, the Arab world is a land of encounter between its indigenous peoples, on the one hand, and migrants coming to study or to seek work, on the other hand.

The multiplicity of religious, cultural and linguistic affiliations in the Arab world emphasizes the need for a culture that respects this diversity in all its manifestations, as well as the need for a system of governance that translates and roots this respect into its laws and regulations. A model of citizenship that embraces diversity, as well as one that is committed to its ethics, is respectful of its principles and safeguards its freedoms, is needed to shield the peoples of the Arab world from strife and enable them to play their role in advancing the course of human civilization toward peace building, progress and prosperity.

Freedom of religion and belief is at the basis of civil liberties; it is a pillar of citizenship, of recognizing the other and the right to difference. In this light, Adyan Foundation has produced this white paper in collaboration with a number of local and international experts and is mindful of the events shaping the contemporary Arab world, including the tragic, devastating conflicts in the region as well as the popular movements which represent a gradual transformation in

the value system of younger generations seeking greater openness to the world and the adventure of diversity and co-existence. It is the hope of Adyan Foundation that this paper might contribute to the advancement of Arab societies towards a stability based on the respect of human rights, and towards building a citizenship that is inclusive of diversity, in the face of widespread ignorance and extremism, which instill fear, suspicion, resentment and hatred.

This paper takes into consideration the relationship between freedom of religion and belief, on the one hand, and religious culture in Arab societies, on the other. While the question of freedom is a political and civil question, its implementation requires a general culture that nurtures these freedoms. Hence there is a need to address religious discourse and practice, and to examine the ways in which they can become factors that promote freedom of religion and belief, rather than representing obstacles on its path.

Over four sections, this paper presents conceptual, political and religious definitions and clarifications of freedom of religion and belief. It concludes with two lists of recommendations, the first addressed to political decision-makers, and the second to those in charge of religious institutions and discourse. We hope that it will contribute to the necessary and urgent progress needed in this field, in order to achieve human dignity, development, active citizenship and stability in the countries of the Arab region.

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