Right to Religious Freedom: Universal Documents and Approaches

The right to religious freedom is a fundamental human right that is recognised and protected by various universal documents and approaches. Here are some of the key instruments and frameworks that uphold the right to religious freedom:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, the UDHR proclaims in Article 18 that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. It emphasises the right to change one's religion or belief, as well as the freedom to manifest religion or belief through worship, observance, practice, and teaching.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): The ICCPR, which entered into force in 1976, further elaborates on the right to religious freedom in Article 18. It affirms the right to hold and manifest one's religion or belief, while also recognising that freedom of religion can be subject to certain limitations necessary for the protection of public safety, order, health, or morals.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC): The CRC, adopted in 1989, recognises the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion for children in Article 14. It calls for respecting the rights and duties of parents or legal guardians to provide guidance in the exercise of this right, taking into account the evolving capacities of the child.

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC): The UNHRC is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights, including religious freedom. It has established Special Rapporteurs and Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief who monitor and report on issues related to religious freedom around the world.

Interfaith dialogue: Interfaith dialogue and engagement are important approaches to promote religious freedom and foster understanding and respect among different religious communities. These initiatives encourage dialogue, cooperation, and the celebration of diversity, helping to prevent and address conflicts arising from religious differences.

National legislation and constitutions: Many countries have enshrined the right to religious freedom in their constitutions or domestic laws. These legal frameworks provide protections against religious discrimination, guarantee the freedom to practice one's religion, and establish mechanisms for addressing violations of religious freedom.

Regional human rights systems: Regional human rights systems, such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), also recognise and protect the right to religious freedom within their respective regions.

While the right to religious freedom is universally recognised, its implementation and protection vary across countries and regions. Challenges and violations persist, including religious discrimination, persecution, restrictions on religious practices, and acts of religious intolerance. Efforts to promote religious freedom require ongoing advocacy, dialogue, education, and the collaboration of governments, civil society, religious leaders, and individuals to ensure the full realisation of this fundamental human right.
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