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Advancing Religious Freedom for socio-economic transformation of Africa.

Background:

There is an eminent struggle for universal religious freedom, encompassing rights to hold private beliefs, as well as the right to communal religious expression and education. We’ve witnessed religious communities facing state repression and impunity, leading to violent extremist attacks and other forms of persecution.

Despite Uganda and Africa’s rich social fabric woven with religious and cultural diversity, challenges persist. These challenges stem not only from internal factors but also from Western countries that often undervalue or overlook the significance of religious freedom within African contexts and have even penalised African governments for faith inspired choices. This oversight or anomaly has resulted in the marginalization and suppression of religious beliefs and practices, leading to tensions, conflicts, and human rights violations within these communities.

Recognizing this disparity, the Inter religious Council of Uganda, in collaboration with the Global Peace Foundation, acknowledges the urgent need to prioritize religious freedom as a fundamental human right. Therefore, we propose to integrate a segment into the planned Inter-religious Family Festival 2024 as a platform to address this historical neglect and advocate for the integration of religious freedom into societal norms and practices.

Rationale:

Religious freedom is a common good, because it benefits everyone. When it is guaranteed people of different faiths, world-views and beliefs can peacefully live together without fear and can concentrate on productive enterprises.

Religious freedom is therefore not only a fundamental human right but also a cornerstone of democracy, social cohesion, and national development. It allows individuals to express their beliefs, values, and identities without fear of persecution or discrimination. Despite the important place religion occupies in Africa, it still faces tensions and repression, both from within and from foreign states.

Furthermore, the Western construct of human rights often disregards different societal beliefs and values, making African beliefs a target for accusations of violating human rights. The focus on repression of religious minorities, without addressing foreign interferences in religious worship, exacerbates the issue.

This discrepancy underscores the need for proactive advocacy and integration of religious freedom into policy-making and leadership. Policy makers and leaders must take into account the need to fight for their communities’ beliefs while promoting growth and good governance. Faith communities given their strategic positioning in communities have particularly a critical role to play in ensuring that religious freedoms are not an end in themselves but to use the space they provide to contribute to human flourishing. In many parts of Africa , faith institutions enjoy relative religious freedom,,but have failed to use this space to tackle pressing issues that undermine human dignity, namely, poverty, marginalization and inequalities. At times , faith Institutions have used the space provided by religious freedom to exploit and impoverish¬† those they are called to empower and liberate.

Areas of Concern for Religious Freedom:

Preventing Coercion and Intimidation of Believers: Our first concern is to safeguard individuals from coercion and intimidation based on their religious beliefs. This involves advocating for laws and policies that protect individuals’ rights to freely practice their religion without fear of persecution or discrimination.

Promoting Religious Liberty Abroad: We recognize the importance of promoting religious liberty not only within our own communities but also on a global scale. This includes advocating for the rights of religious minorities in other countries and supporting efforts to combat religious persecution and discrimination worldwide.

Addressing Distinctive Problems Presented by Globalization: In the face of globalization, we must address the unique challenges it poses to religious freedom. This may include issues such as cultural imperialism, the spread of extremist ideologies, and the erosion of traditional religious practices. By understanding and addressing these challenges, we can better protect religious freedom in an increasingly interconnected world.

Promoting Positive Economic Outcomes for African Communities to Reduce Dependency: Economic empowerment plays a crucial role in ensuring religious freedom and human rights more broadly. Therefore, we must advocate for  policies and initiatives that promote economic development and prosperity within African communities. By reducing dependency and improving economic opportunities, individuals are better able to exercise their rights, including the freedom to practice their religion without hindrance.

Objectives

Raise awareness about the centrality of religious freedom to human flourishing.

Advocate for the protection of religious freedom and the prevention of religious discrimination and persecution.

Propose ways in which religious freedom can be embraced as a way of life and the role of faith communities in all this.

Proposed Activities:

Panel Discussion and workshops. Organize panel discussions and workshops featuring religious leaders, legal experts, and scholars to discuss the concept of religious freedom, its relevance in the African context, and strategies for its promotion and protection.

Declaration of Religious Freedom: Conclude the festival with a symbolic declaration or pledge ceremony where participants affirm their commitment to upholding religious freedom for all. This could involve signing a statement or banner expressing support for the right to believe and practice religion freely.

Public Awareness Campaigns: Launch a comprehensive public awareness campaign utilizing various media platforms such as radio, television, social media, and community outreach programs. This campaign will disseminate information about religious freedom, emphasizing its importance as a fundamental human right and encouraging individuals to respect and uphold the rights of others to hold differing religious and cultural beliefs.

Educational Materials and Resources: Develop and distribute educational materials, including pamphlets, brochures, and online resources, that provide practical information and guidance on religious freedom. These materials will be tailored to different age groups and demographics, ensuring accessibility and relevance to a wide audience.

Collaborative Partnerships: Forge partnerships with religious institutions, educational organizations, and civil society groups to co-host events and initiatives focused on promoting religious freedom. By leveraging the collective expertise and resources of these partners, we can reach a broader audience and have a more significant impact on raising awareness and understanding of our values and rights to different views.

Event Details

  • Start Time

    8:00 am

  • End Time

    05:00 pm

  • Event Type

    Inaugural event

Organizer

  • Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU)

  • Phone Number

    +256414342877

  • Email Address

    secretarygeneral@ircu.or.ug

  • Website

    https://www.ircu.or.ug/