Durham Keynotes Conference: Promoting the Freedom of Religion and Beliefs in ASEAN

Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, was the keynote speaker at a Regional Consultation on Promoting the Freedom of Religion or Belief in ASEAN in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 19-20 February 2014. The event was hosted by HRWG – Human Rights Working Group, a Coalition of Indonesian NGOs for International Human Rights Advocacy, in partnership with the Indonesian Representative for AICHR, Mr. Rafendi Djamin, and supported by the Canadian Government. Participants included members of AICHR, ACWC, representatives of relevant governmental agencies from ASEAN Member States, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI’s) from Indonesia and the Philippines, Think Tanks and academes, Human Rights NGOs, interfaith dialogue organizations, and religious organization from several ASEAN Member States and representatives from the diplomatic community in Jakarta.

Among the other speakers at the conference were Mr. Ahmad Taufan Damanik (Commissioner of ASEAN Committee on Protection of Women and Child), and Dr. Denison Jayasooria (Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA), University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Secretary General PROHAM, Society for the Promotion of Human Rights in Malaysia) as Discussant, Ms. Alissa Wahid (The Coordinator of Gusdurian) and Mr. K. V. Soon Vidyananda (Secretary General International Muslim-Buddhist Dialogue), and Mr. Jose Manuel S. Mamauag (Commissioner of Philippines NHRI).

Vulnerable groups, especially minorities in a number of countries in ASEAN have experienced discrimination, violence, and all forms of human rights violations simply because of their ethnicity or belonging to certain religious minority. The ASEAN region is also witness that the violations against religious freedom will trigger or result in violation of other rights. This is the case of how freedom of religion is interlinked with the guarantee of freedom of expression.

It is with this backdrop, Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) in cooperation with Indonesia’s Representative to AICHR, organized this two-day dialogue, bringing together AICHR Representatives, ACWC Representatives, civil society groups, victims organizations, national human rights institutions, UN Special Rapporteur, academes, media and government officials, and the ASEAN Secretariat to discuss the status of freedom religion and belief and to come up with a collective action plan as well as with recommendation for ASEAN organs to further respect the freedom of religion and belief. This regional consultation was a continuation from the regional meeting that was organized by HRWG on November 2012 with civil society organizations in ASEAN countries.

Read more about this event, including the Recommendation of the Consultation, here.

For further information about this Consultation, including also related to materials meeting, powerpoint and paper please kindly contact Muhammad Hafiz, Program Manager UN-OIC Advocacy HRWG at [email protected].

All information in this report is taken directly from the event website, the source also of the accompanying photograph. The site was hacked and closed in May 2015.