Presentation | “Role of civil society in ensuring religious freedom”

Presentation | “Role of civil society in ensuring religious freedom”

Our chief executive Samet Shabani had a presentation at the session on the role of civil society in ensuring religious freedom at “Regional Conference: Rethinking religious tolerance among Western Balkans partners”. The conference brought regional stakeholders (decision makers, religious communities, academicians, civil society representatives, media, etc.) to discuss on enhancing interfaith dialogue in the region.

During his speech, Shabani had the following remarks:

• Violating religious freedom / discrimination on grounds of religion continue to be an issue in daily life of citizens.

• There were certain reporting in regional countries of individuals facing with discrimination in some cases:

– Rejection in job applications with bias on religion;

– Denied access to recreational and cultural activities (swimming pools prohibiting burkini for females and longer swimming shorts for males, females with hijab prohibited entrance in cultural centers, certain restaurants and cafes in city center, etc.)

• Some TV magazin show programs in the region use ridiculing language towards religious norms thus violating freedom on religious practices.

• Freedom of religious education is partly violated for Islamic Religious Community high schools in North Macedonia. Madrassas Isa Beu (Islamic high schools) are not granted with accreditation by Ministry for Education and Science of the country since its independence (other religious high schools are already granted with such accreditation). Hereby they can continue their studies only at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in the country, and some theological universities in Turkey and some Arabic countries.

• Civil society play crucial roles in two aspects:

1. Countering abuse of religious freedom can be done through:

– active participation in hate speech and hate crime reporting (providing input to ODIHR annual reports on hate crime reporting against religious communities, Helsinki Committee reports, etc.; publishing news on hate speech and hate crime cases, writing blogs and other creative tools, reporting to media, etc.)

– providing legal aid for individuals/communities facing with abuse of religious freedom

– advocating for freedom of religious education

2. Proactive advocacy on religious freedom:

– Raising awareness at different target groups in society (young people, business companies, educational and health institutions, public institutions,) through informal education (ex: training, workshops, study visits to religious temples, creative tools: photography and video contents, promoting space for religious prayers at bigger companies)

– Creative activities with different target groups for promoting religious freedom (ex: fasting solidarity, attending to religious prayers of different religions).

This conference was organized by Albanian Helsinki Committee.