Jordan Pendergrass, ICLRS Research Advisor
Sunday evening, October 2, 2011, Justice Zakeria Mohammed Yacoob of the Constitutional Court of South Africa delivered the keynote address at the opening session of the Eighteenth Annual International Law and Religion Symposium. Citing both South African and international examples, Justice Yacoob demonstrated that religious freedom is a critical right that can and must be preserved.
"There is religious oppression in many parts of the world," explained Justice Yacoob, "and that oppression is aimed at advancing a particular hegemonic position at the expense of the religious practice concerned....This is on any basis unacceptable particularly if this is done by a State that proclaims its adherence to pluralism or secularism."
Justice Yacoob, a venerable Founding Father of the South African Constitution and an advocate for multiple social causes, also affirmed the critical element of equality under the law. "We are all human beings," Justice Yacoob stated. "I strongly believe that we should not harbor any notion that we as human beings are better than other human beings."
The Symposium's opening session was attended by more than 70 distinguished government, academic, and social leaders representing more than 35 countries. This year's Symposium occurs just a few weeks before the 30th anniversary of the issuance of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.