This resource is a guide for people working to promote the freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). It offers practical advice on how civil society organisations, faith or belief groups and governments may work together to reduce violations of this human right and to support a culture of respect and good relations between people of all faiths and beliefs.
The freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief is largely recognised as a universal right, encoded in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For many years, FoRB was an under-developed human right. In the last 25 years, increasing attention has been paid to it and today there are a wide variety of FoRB initiatives. There remains a need for greater learning and development of effective and inclusive FoRB interventions which draw on expertise from a variety of actors.
This guide builds upon recently published guidelines and research. Inclusive and effective FoRB work involves:
Many groups from different sectors of society need to work together to advance FoRB. This guide focuses on three groups: 1) civil society organisations, 2) faith or belief groups and 3) policy professionals (people who design and implement projects on behalf of governments). Each section of this document is addressed to one of these groups, and each section includes links to further resources and highlights examples of existing work for further learning. A complete reading and resource list can be found at the end of this guide.
This guide acknowledges that people are involved in FoRB work in different ways: addressing specific violations of rights, promoting a culture of human rights and tolerance, and supporting development and peacebuilding which leads to greater FoRB for all. This guide mainly addresses people who commission, design and implement FoRB programmes. Other groups which are central to FoRB work may access toolkits and other helpful resources to support their engagement with FoRB: elected government officials, private sector and media organisations.
Whatever approach you take to FoRB, this guide can be used to:
Between 2019 and 2021, The Faith and Belief Forum hosted five participatory events bringing together 64 people representing civil society organisations, faith and belief groups alongside policy professionals, diplomats and academics working on FoRB. Two events were held in London and three more were hosted online, bringing together participants from 18 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. At these interactive events, participants shared their success and challenges in working together, and they made recommendations for effective and inclusive FoRB. They also reviewed a draft version of this guide and made suggestions. This document includes their reflections alongside a review of recent publications and resources.
Civil society organisations working for human rights, development, justice and peacebuilding regularly implement projects which promote better FoRB outcomes. How can this work be more effective and inclusive?
Faith or belief groups at the international, national and local levels are closely connected to FoRB projects: as people affected by FoRB violations, and as key actors in promoting FoRB within their own groups and in their communities. How can this engagement be more effective and inclusive?
Specific context of engagement
Policy professionals (including civil servants, diplomats and other government employees) regularly participate in FoRB and related projects as funders, connectors and advocates. How can this engagement be more effective and inclusive?
Humanists International (2020). The Freedom of Thought Report 2020.
International Commission of Jurists (2019. Primer on the Rights to Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion or Belief.
OHCHR (2020). International Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Petersen, M. J. and Marshall, K. (2019) The International Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief: Sketching the Contours of a Common Framework.
Nordic Ecumenical Network on Freedom of Religion or Belief (NORFORB) (2018). FoRB Learning Platform.
Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (2021). The Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief (OC).
OHCHR (2021). Faith for Rights Toolkit and Resources.
OSCE/ODIHR (2019) Freedom of Religion or Belief and Security Policy Guidance.
Wilton Park (2018) Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief : What is the Role of Education.
OHCHR (2001). Training Manual on Human Rights Monitoring.
Pew Forum (2020). Religious Restrictions around the World.
Search for Common Ground (2018). Monitoring and Evaluation to Counter Hate Speech.
US Department of State (2021). International Religious Freedom Reports.
Adyan Foundation (2015). Arab Toolkit for Education on Inclusive Citizenship.
ACT Alliance (2019). New possibilities for Gender Justice in Africa.
Development Initiative of West Africa (2020). Spreading Peace in a Multi-Cultural Environment in Nigeria.
Human Rights Resource Centre (2015). Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion in ASEAN.
Immanuel, J. M. (2010). Peace Building by Cultural Communities: Learning from Indonesian Cultures and Several Considerations.
Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process (2021). Religion, Peacebuilding and Human Rights in Cyprus: An Introduction
OSCE/ODIHR (2021). ODIHR Freedom of Religion or Belief Programme.
Search for Common Ground (2018). Solidifying Religious Freedom in Indonesia.
Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs (2021). Religion and Diplomacy: A Resource of the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy.
OHCHR (2020). Religion and Freedom of Religion or Belief Literacy.
OHCHR (2020). Report on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Gender Equality.
OHCHR (2020). Report on safeguarding freedom of religion or belief for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Peace Direct / Alliance for Peacebuilding (2020). Local Peacebuilding: What Works and Why
Petersen, M. J. (2020). Promoting FoRB and Gender Equality in the Context of the SDGs
Tadros, M. and Sabates-Wheeler, R. (2020) Inclusive Development: Beyond Need, Not Creed.
ACT Alliance (2020). Engaging with Local Faith Actors and Communities: A Toolkit.
CiFORB (no date) Theory of Change for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB).
Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (2020). Conflict Analysis Framework: Field Guidelines and Procedures.
International Religious Freedom Roundtable (2019) Keys to Success: Multi-Faith International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable Establishment Checklist.
New Tactics in Human Rights (2020). Strategy Toolkit.
OHCHR (2021). Faith for Rights Toolkit and Resources.
Oxfam (2021). Quick Guide to Power Analysis.
Petito, F., Berry, S. and Mancinelli, M. (2018) Interreligious Engagement Strategies: A Policy Tool to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Search for Common Ground (2020). The Common Ground Approach to Religious Engagement.
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (2016) FoRB Toolkit.