Freedom of Religion and Belief: A World Report

Freedom of Religion and Belief: A World Report

Freedom of Religion and Belief: A World Report

Freedom of Religion and Belief: A World Report


This report, the first of its kind yet to be published, provides a detailed and impartial account of how the individual's right to hold beliefs is understood, protected or denied throughout the world. Consisting of accessible, short edited entries based on drafts commissioned from experts living in the countries surveyed, it exposes persecution and discrimination in virtually all world regions. The book: * provides an analysis of United Nations standards of freedom of religion and belief * covers over fifty countries, divided into regions and introduced by a regional overview * covers themes including: the relationships between belief groups and the state; freedom to manifest belief in law and practice; religion and schools; religious minorities; new religious movements; the impact of beliefs on the status of women; and the extent to which conscientious objection to military service is recognised by governments * draws on examples of accommodation and co-operation between different religions and beliefs and identifies the main challenges to be overcome if the diversity of human conviction is to be established.


Any examination of freedom of religion or belief today needs to address the massive religious revival which is characterising the end of the century. Should we anticipate in the wake of this revival an increase in tolerance, enlightenment and freedom, or are we to be faced with greater intolerance and discrimination, condemned to a further period of extremism, darkness and inquisition?

If considerable progress has been made in the legal status of the right to freedom of religion and belief over the past few decades, reality can still fall short of acknowledged standards. Certainly, the incidence of violations has not shown such a rapid improvement.

Religious freedom does not seem to have won over the minds of people everywhere. Each religion has a tendency to consider that it is the sole guardian of truth and is duty bound to behave accordingly, an attitude which is not always conducive to inter-religious tolerance. What is more, each religion may be tempted to fight against whatever it defines as deviant either within its own faith or at its boundaries, which is equally unlikely to encourage internal religious tolerance. Moreover, crimes committed under the mantle of religious freedom—especially those perpetrated by or ascribed to groups bedecked with religiosity—inevitably provoke extreme reactions, resulting in greater intolerance and discrimination towards anything which does not belong to the established order.

Intolerance persists in the world and sometimes assumes dramatic proportions. Religious extremism persists and appears to threaten entire regions. The interweaving of the religious and political, whether explicit or concealed, continues to underlie attitudes and behaviour, and to fuel and entrench conflicts.

In short, no religion is safe from violation. Intolerance is not the monopoly of any particular state or religion; discrimination based on another’s religion or belief continues to be an everyday phenomenon.

There can be no overstating the truth that all forms of intolerance and discrimination are born in the human mind, and it is there that change is needed if tolerance is to be built and discrimination eliminated. The contribution to be made by education and culture is crucial. It is with this in mind that the World Report on Freedom of Religion and Belief was conceived. The Report is a clearly structured examination of the subject offering very useful information and commentary on some 58 countries. It constitutes a very important addition to our knowledge of freedom of religion and belief around the . . .

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