Conference in New York City: Challenges and Perspectives on UN Protections of Freedom of Religion or Belief, New York City, 8 December 2008

On 8 December 2008, the Center co-sponsored a conference entitled, “Freedom of Religion or Belief: Perspectives and Challenges after Sixty Years of United Nations Protection.” The conference was held in the Bahá’í International Community’s United Nations Office in New York City, and was in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 27th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance based on Religion or Belief.  Center director W. Cole Durham presented at the conference on the effectiveness of the implementation of Freedom of Religion or Belief throughout the world since 1948. He said many of the greatest successes were hardly noted at the time. He went on to say that the issue of freedom of religion or belief is a historical and philosophical foundation of other rights, and noted, “religious freedom does more for security than just about any other measure.”

Other presenters included Felice Gaer, from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, The Jacob Blaustein Institute; Malcolm Evans of the University of Bristol School of Law; Bani Dugal from Bahá’í International Community; Azza Karam, from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); and Tom Farr, from Georgetown School of Foreign Service. Angela Wu of the Becket Fund moderated the first session, and Cory Leonard of the David M. Kennedy International Center at Brigham Young University moderated the second. Speakers presented on topics such as challenges facing the freedom of religion or belief, including cultural concerns and conflicts with other rights; the effectiveness of legal protections for the freedom of religion or belief; the role of smaller NGO’s in issues involving the freedom of religion or belief; and challenges in the United States’ response to international religious issues. Later that same evening, W. Cole Durham spoke at an event hosted by the Jacob Blaustein Institute, also in New York City, addressing “Freedom of Religion and Religious Violence: How to Protect One and Stop the Other.” Tom Farr and Malcolm Evans were the other two speakers.