The CIFoRB team has participated in numerous academic and parliamentary conferences on the importance of FoRB for the Commonwealth and how parliamentarians can effectively support FoRB in national and international contexts. Key events in the project’s first year have included:
NOVEMBER 2015: From 27-29 November, members of the CIFoRB project, led by project director Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta. The meeting was a crucial opportunity for CIFoRB to introduce itself and its resources to Commonwealth leaders. CIFoRB contributions to the meeting were detailed in an article in The Parliamentarian, titled ‘Reaching Out at CHOGM: Launching the Commonwealth Initiative on Freedom of Religion or Belief’ and mention in a Commonwealth VOICES article, titled ‘The 2016 Theme: The Inclusive Commonwealth.’
MAY 2016: On 1 May, an op/ed on recent polls of Muslims in Europe, written by CIFoRB affiliate scholar, Professor Jocelyne Cesari, was published in the openDemocracy online journal. On 5 May, CIFoRB Co-Director Dr Andrew Davies and CIFoRB Head of Research Harriet Hoffler delivered a paper titled ‘Adopting the Orphan: Towards an Appreciation of Freedom of Religion or Belief as a Religious, Political, and Legal Imperative’ at the Law and Religion Scholars Network (LARSN) annual conference at the Centre for Law and Religion at the Cardiff University School of Law and Politics.
From 15-18 May, Baroness Berridge attended the 46th British Islands and Mediterranean Region Annual Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to make contact with parliamentarians in that region. On 23 May, Baroness Berridge focused on the human rights dimensions of FoRB in the annual Queen’s Speech debate.
JUNE 2016: CIFoRB Principal Investigator Monica Duffy Toft published an article in the June 2016 issue of the Institute for Public Policy Research journal Juncture, on the use of a networked response to combat networks of extremist violence.
SEPTEMBER 2016: On 8 September, Baroness Berridge spoke on behalf of CIFoRB at a debate on Article 18 at the U.K. Parliament. On the same day, CIFoRB Head of Research, Harriet Hoffler, spoke on Article 18 and human rights at the fourth conference of the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS) at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford.
On 14 September, the CIFoRB team delivered a focus group session for Commonwealth parliamentarians in Berlin, as part of the annual conference of the International Panel of Parliamentarians on Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) Parliamentarians attended the breakfast meeting to discuss FoRB issues within their countries, as well as ways to support parliamentarians in supporting FoRB rights as part of their countries’ progress toward achieving the goals of the Commonwealth Charter.
On 22 September, Baroness Berridge presented the innovative work undertaken by the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) at a workshop on “Religion and Religious Freedom in International Diplomacy” organized by then United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (and current CIFoRB advisory board member), Heiner Bielefeldt, in collaboration with the World Council of Churches, the EU delegation to the UN and the Finnish Ecumenical Council.
OCTOBER 2016: On 4 October, CIFoRB Head of Research, Harriet Hoffler, participated in a panel on ‘Religious Rights in a Pluralistic World: Commonwealth Initiative’ at an annual symposium convened by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies in Provo, Utah, USA. On 19-20 October, Baroness Berridge and members of the CIFoRB team attended a two-day Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) summit on how FoRB can help prevent violent extremism. The CIFoRB team also contributed to an FCO ‘toolkit’ report on how the FCO can help promote respect for FoRB..
On 27 October, Baroness Berridge spoke at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief in recognition of International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day. The meeting featured a screening of CIFoRB’s interview with EU Special Envoy Jan Figel. Baroness Berridge also contributed to a parliamentary debate the same day on the peace process in Cyprus, emphasising the need to engage religious leaders.
From 27-29 October, CIFoRB advisory board members, Heiner Bielefeldt and Nazila Ghanea, participated in a conference hosted by the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Professor Bielefeldt, a former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Relief, delivered the conference’s opening address. Professor Ghanea, an international human rights law scholar, participated in a panel of commentary on the newly drafted ‘Oslo Principles on Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief’. Professor Malcolm Evans, chair of the CIFoRB advisory board was also present and spoke on preventative approaches to FoRB.
NOVEMBER 2016: On 17 November, CIFoRB Principal Investigator Monica Duffy Toft delivered a Keele World Affairs lecture on ‘God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics’ at Keele University.
DECEMBER 2016: On 15 December, Baroness Berridge and members of the CIFoRB team convened a special session for parliamentarians to share their experiences around FoRB issues at the 62nd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) in London. Baroness Berridge also spoke on a panel on FoRB rights.
Over the course of the next two years, the CIFoRB project looks forward to supporting parliamentarians around the Commonwealth with the best academic research and most effective strategies for speaking out on the crucial FoRB rights enshrined in Article 18.