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Bridging the divide: New perspectives for an international approach to countering religious hatred and promote fundamental freedoms


Who: The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, in partnership with the The Sikh Human Rights Group.

What: Online panel event “Bridging the divide: new perspectives for an international approach to countering religious hatred and promote fundamental freedoms”

When: 24 April 2024, 15:00 to 16:30 CET

Where: Online via Zoom

A follow-up report, issued after the event, further provide a panel proceedings, Q&A session, and full statements of the panelists.

View the panel event’s concept note.

The intense violence and serious violations of humanitarian law and human rights that is unfolding in the war on Gaza have made over 35’000 civilian victims of all faiths so far, in and outside the territory of the strip, leading to a dramatic rise in islamophobia and antisemitism across the globe. This has given way to higher levels of social tension, discrimination and violence, and has stifled many efforts for peace among religious communities. In a context of escalation in religious hatred, growing right-wing extremism, and increase of stifling policies for freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, atrocities in Gaza have set the world further back from the achievement of peace and tolerance.

Freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression are mutually dependent and reinforcing, and are critical to sustain tolerance and cohesion in societies. Despite the rich corpus inholding clarifications on the interlinkage between faith, peace and human rights, claims that certain religious or faith groups are inherent threats to national security, public order or national values are gaining ground in the political and public debate globally. It can be argued that these claims often hinge on theories of civilizational cleavage, and often instrumentalize religions and beliefs to undermine the legitimate political demands of certain communities.

This interactive discussion aims to rejuvenate this debate and brings it closer to the realities on the ground, focusing on the practical and conceptual challenges related to anti-hate policies, freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression. It will explore questions of media regulation, representation of faith groups in public and political life, and establishment of transnational collaborative networks.

In this panel discussion, speakers and participants will be invited to: take stock of the recent trends and developments related to the incitement to religious hatred, hostility or violence; bring forth new perspectives on the intergovernmental policy framework for combating indictment to religious hatred; discuss public policy tools to combat religious hatred and safeguard freedom of expression and other fundamental freedoms; reflect on how plural and diverse appropriations of the human rights framework impact the endorsement and implementation of international legal and political standards; and discuss promising approaches to establish transnational collaborative networks for interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding.


Dr Ibrahim Salama is the Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), where he also leads the ‘Faith for Rights’ programme. Previously, he headed the UN Secretariat for the preparatory process of the 2009 UN World Conference Against Racism (Durban Review Conference), and was also an independent expert of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, and the Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development. He coordinated an OHCHR initiative on the prohibition of incitement to hatred. It led to the Rabat Plan of Action that defined the threshold distinguishing hate speech from free speech. Mr. Salama is spearheading the OHCHR Faith for Rights initiative. This framework and its implementation toolkit define the human rights responsibilities of faith actors and brings together theistic, nontheistic and atheistic believers sharing a common platform of concrete human rights commitments. In 2019, as a Visiting Fellow at the Geneva Academy, he carried out research on the human rights role and responsibilities of religious actors, attempting to provide a draft human rights toolbox for human rights training for faith actors. As a result, he co-authored, together with Michael Wiener, the book Reconciling Religion and Human Rights: Faith in Multilateralism (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022) as well as the article ‘Faith for Rights’ in Armed Conflict: Lessons from Practice (Journal of Human Rights Practice, 2023).

Dr Haci Ali Acikgul is member of OIC-IPHRC since March 2019, currently serving as vice- chairperson of the Commission. During the 16th Session of OIC-IPHRC held between 24th and 28th November 2019, he was elected as the Chairperson of the Working Group on Palestine. Dr. Acikgul is also the Head of Department of Human Rights in the Ministry of Justice of Türkiye. He graduated from the Ankara University Law School. He received his LLM from Ankara University Institute of Social Science, and PhD from Selcuk University Institute of Social Science. He was visiting scholar at the University of Houston Law Center, Houston, TX, USA in 2013-2014. He started his career as public prosecutor and served in different cities across Turkey between 2001 and 2006. He appointed as reporter judge to the Ministry of Justice in 2006, Deputy Head of Department of Human Rights in 2012, and Head of Department in 2014. He is serving Turkish Government Agent before the ECtHR. He has some publications on Human Rights including freedom of expression. He is the owner of the Human Rights Journal. (

Ms Armela Krasniqi was born in Tirana on 26 November 1976, she is married and has two sons.  On 1999 she finished her studies with high results and was graduated for Journalism in the Department of Journalism of the History and Philology Faculty in the University of Tirana. During the period from December 2022 to September 2023, she is appointed as the Deputy President of the Mediterranean Network of Regulatory Authorities (MNRA). Since September 2023, Mrs. Krasniqi holds the position of President of the Mediterranean Network of Regulatory Authorities (MNRA). Ms. Armela Krasniqi was elected with 83 out of 140 votes as Chair of the Audiovisual Media Authority. Ms. Krasniqi has a long career in media and communication holding positions in both private and state sectors.  Her previous duty was as General Director of Albanian Telegraphic Agency. During this period, she was elected by 32 European news agencies as a member of the board of the European News Agencies (EANA). Madam Krasniqi has also been President of ABNA – SEE (Association of the Balkan News Agencies Southeast Europe).  She has been the organizer of several international conferences, among which we highlight: “News agencies vs fake news” where the “Tirana Declaration on fake news” was drafted and signed by 13 European news agencies, as well she had an active participation in conferences: “How can the media survive in the digital age”; “Media of the future”; “The possibilities of news agencies in the fight against disinformation”, ect.

Dr W. Y. Alice Chan, PhD, is executive director and co-founder of the Centre for Civic Religious Literacy, a Canadian non-profit that promotes understanding about religious, spiritual, and non-religious peoples from an intersectional perspective. This interest began when she was a school teacher and witnessed religious bullying among her students. Since then, she has researched religious bullying and religious literacy to help herself, colleagues, and students find ways to work, live, and engage better together. She has worked for multinational corporations and non-profits, and engaged in urban and rural spaces in Canada and the US, enabling her to connect with individuals from varying backgrounds and sectors. Her publications include Teaching Religious Literacy to Combat Religious Bullying: Insights from North American Secondary Schools (2021), publications in academic journals, and for the UNESCO-MGIEP. In 2023, she was an invited panelist at the US Department of Education’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Prof Arvind-Pal S. Mandair teaches at the University of Michigan, where is Professor in Asian Languages and Cultures, and holds an Endowed Chair in Sikh Studies. He holds a doctoral degree in the fields of Chemistry and holds an additional doctoral degree in Philosophy/Asian religions. After his Ph.D he took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship at SOAS (1999-2001), where where began a collaborative project with Prof. Shackle on new translations and interpretations of the Sikh scripture (broadly conceived). This collaboration culminated in the jointly authored/translated Teachings of the Sikh Gurus: Selections from the Scriptures (Routledge 2005). He also delved into critical studies of secularity and secularism, resulting in a major co-edited volume with Markus Dressler Secularism and Religion-Making (Oxford University Press, 2011). Also in 2009, he was invited back to SOAS to deliver the Jordan Lectures in Comparative Religion. This became the focus of his  research for the next 9 years, culminating in 2019/2020 in a major monograph: Geophilosophical Encounters: Sikh Thought, Decolonial Praxis and Diasporic Logics which is being published by Routledge in 2024. His current research interests are focused on the intersections between World Philosophies, Global Philosophies of Religion, Cross-Cultural Philosophy, Spirituality, Mind & Consciousness studies, Political Theory/Theology, Diaspora & Postcoloniality Studies; Race, Religion and Postcolonaility; & Science and Technology Studies. The main output of this research nexus is a book called Geophilosophical Encounters (forthcoming 2024) which investigates different way of thinking about cross-cultural philosophy (based on encounters between Sikh and Western concepts).


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