Delegates from Around the World Meet to Discuss Religious Freedom

Delegates from Around the World Meet to Discuss Religious Freedom

Public Issue

Some 100 delegates from countries around the world met at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, to discuss “Religion and Religious Freedom in a Changing World.” The meeting was the 24th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium hosted by BYU, owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Attendees from the South Pacific included: Neville Rochow, Barrister and Professor of Law, Notre Dame Australia and University of Adelaide; Keith Thompson, Associate Professor, School of Law, University of Notre Dame Sydney; Peter Toliken, Justice, Supreme and National Court of Justice, Papua New Guinea; Afamasaga Toleafoa, Ambassador, Government of Samoa; and Paul Babie, Professor of Law, Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide.


Keynote speakers at this year’s symposium were Jan Figel and Andras Sajo. Mr. Figel is the Special Envoy for promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union and the former European Commissioner for Education, Training & Culture. Mr. Sajo is a former judge on the European Court of Human Rights and legal Counsellor to the President of Hungary.

Mr. Figel spoke of the political and social challenges to religious freedom. He said “Freedom of religion or beliefs is a litmus test of all human rights. It speaks directly about the dignity of the human person." He indicated that “We need more knowledge about and dialog among cultures, religions and civilizations” and suggested that the “International community is determined to fight for freedom of religion." Speaking of the European Union, he continued “We are convinced that religion is, in itself, a force for good and know that the wide majority of religiously faithful are peace-loving, respectful of other people’s rights and fundamental liberties.”


Mr. Andras Sajo Sajo said that “persecution on religious grounds is a daily tragedy.” He identified three primary “assaults” to liberty when they are maximized or exaggerated: security, identity and welfare. Suggesting that the practical solution to the conflict between these three “assaults” and religious freedom is tolerance, resulting in “public accommodation of religious expression whenever necessary and possible.” He said “One can only hope participants in the democratic process, including religious participants, will understand the moral superiority and practical advantages of this dictate of liberty.”

According to “Each year since 1994, the (International Center for Law and Religion Studies) has hosted a symposium devoted to the discussion of law and religion. By 2017, more than 1200 government, academic, and religious leaders and visitors from 124 countries had met together to discuss principles of religious liberty and to explore mechanisms to better implement these principles.”

This year’s symposium ran October 1 through October 3.

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