3 Oct. 2016 – CIRIS has co-published a new report with the US Institute of Peace (USIP) on the Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Majority Communities. The report explores how policymakers and practitioners can further the aims of this seminal declaration.
Susan Hayward, director of Religion and Inclusive Societies at USIP, authored the report and presented it to the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy at the network’s consultation in Washington in June 2016. Hayward attended the January 2016 conference in Marrakesh that produced the Declaration and has closely monitored its impact and implementation.
Summary from the front page of the report:
- In recent years, ethnic and religious minorities around the world have faced new threats due to the rise of violent extremist groups and exclusionary nationalist movements. In areas where movements associated with the self-declared Islamic State operate, religious minorities have been treated with particular brutality.
- Motivated, in part, by concern for this reality, over three hundred Islamic scholars, politicians, and activists, as well as a small group of interfaith observers, gathered in Morocco in January 2016 to affirm the rights of minorities living in Muslim-majority contexts.
- The conference’s Marrakesh Declaration and the legal framework that informs it draw from Islamic tradition, particularly the seventh century Charter of Medina, to affirm equal citizenship as an Islamic principle and traditional form of governance prescribed by Prophet Muhammad.
- The Marrakesh Declaration is a powerful response to a pressing global human rights concern and a model for how religious tradition and international human rights law can be mutually reinforcing. This initiative can serve as a powerful resource for legitimizing and advocating for minority rights and equal citizenship more broadly within the Muslim world.
- Its true test of impact will be in its implementation—the extent to which the ideals, principles, and actions envisioned in the Declaration can spread beyond its purview as an elite enterprise to ignite and mobilize a broad-based movement for social, legal, and political change.
- Those from non-Muslim majority contexts wishing to support the Marrakesh Declaration must be careful not to undermine its legitimacy as a Muslim-led initiative, particularly in contexts where minority rights and religious freedom have historically been used as pretext for colonialism and Christian missionizing.
This is a transcript of Judd Birdsall’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the 2015 Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy.
I would like to offer a few thoughts on the relationship between religious freedom and democracy.
Poland is a great place to discuss both of these issues because Poland provides a model of how religious freedom and democracy go hand in hand, reinforcing each other.
Poland has a long tradition of religious tolerance, going back to the Warsaw Confederation of the 16th century, and perhaps earlier. Thus the Polish tradition of religious tolerance is far than the United States itself. So, I’m humbled to be here as an American discussing these issues today.
And in contemporary Poland there is a very high level of religious freedom. The U.S. State Department, where I used to work, just released its annual Report on International Religious Freedom last week, and you’ll see that the chapter on Poland is very complimentary of the Polish government and society.
On Wednesday many of us went to the Warsaw Uprising Museum, and I want to thank the conference organizers for including that in the agenda. It was a sobering and instructive experience. I was struck by the many elements of faith throughout the museum, reminders that the church helped to sustain the Polish people through very difficult times. And there’s a video playing of the Pope’s visit to Warsaw in 1979. Throughout the 1980s and 90s Catholics in Poland used their expanding religious freedom to push for democratic reforms.
So, Poland shows that religious freedom and democracy can go hand-in-hand.
But we often still talk about them quite separately. We treat them in isolation.
In the West it seems to me that there are two unhelpful ways of divorcing religious freedom from democracy.
On 26 October 2015 CIRIS Managing Director Judd Birdsall spoke on the inseparability of religious freedom and democracy at the 4th annual Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy. In his remarks Birdsall argued that democracy and religious freedom are too often promoted in isolation from each other. And yet the example of Poland’s Catholicism-inspired transition from communism to democracy shows that religious freedom and democracy are mutually reinforcing.
Click here to read the transcript of Birdsall’s remarks.
Launched in 2012, the Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy is organised by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This year the Dialogue brought together some 200 human rights activists to discuss the theme “Democracy at the crossroads? Current threats and opportunities.”
On 8 October 2015 CIRIS Senior Research Associate Pasquale Annicchino participated in a panel discussion on ‘Overcoming Differences Between Western Democracies in Developing a Common Religious Freedom Policy’ at conference at Georgetown University. Dr. Annicchino argued for a more coherent and consistent approach from Western countries and, at the same time, for serious reflection on how to enlarge the spectrum of countries and actors involved in the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief.
The conference was hosted by the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
The YouTube video of the panel discussion is available below. Dr Annicchino’s remarks begin at 20:00.
On 19 June 2015 CIRIS hosted Amb. David Saperstein for a roundtable discussion with Cambridge academics on religious freedom in international affairs. Saperstein is the fourth U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. He leads the State Department’s Office on International Religious Freedom and serves as the principal advisor to President Obama and Secretary Kerry on religious freedom issues. Prior to his current appointment, Saperstein serves for 40 years as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC).
Here CIRIS research associate Chris Moses gets Saperstein’s views on the mission of his office and how it can advance religious freedom in challenging places—including in the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
CIRIS: Why was your office established?
In June CIRIS hosted Dr Annicchino for a roundtable discussion in Cambridge on the status of religious freedom in the EU. A leading scholar on law and religion, Annicchino is a Research Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. He has been Adjunct Professor of Law at BYU Law School (USA) and Visiting Professor at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium). He is also a Senior Research Associate with CIRIS.
Here CIRIS managing director Judd Birdsall gets Annicchino’s thoughts on how the EU promotes religious freedom in its domestic and foreign policy—and how the EU approach differs from the US.
CIRIS: Is it possible for the EU to develop a unifying vision of religious freedom for all member states, or will there always be some variation between states based on their own church-state traditions and religious demography?