Freedom of expression and religion: Tolerance, Respect, Dignity

In these tumultuous times, witness to a rise in discrimination and intolerance based on religious affiliation, fuelling alienation, hatred and violence, the Geneva Centre wishes to underline the crucial importance of the praiseworthy decision taken by the European Court of Human Rights on 25 October 2018. In this far-reaching decision, the Court ruled that defaming the Prophet Mohammed goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate and could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.

This balanced decision represents a landmark in support of the respect and tolerance due to all of the world’s religions and the concomitant limits to the freedom of expression. It draws upon and implements the seminal Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 of 24 March 2011, which in para3. Condemns any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, whether it involves the use of print, audio-visual or electronic media or any other means.

In this context, it is worthwhile noting that the Geneva Centre had organized in June 2018, a major and unique international conference at the UN  in Geneva entitled “Religions, Creeds and Value-Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights”. It brought together 35 panellists representing the major world religions, international organizations, prominent world figures and academic experts. The main thrust of the conference was to reject the instrumentalization of religions and promote their authentic meanings, foster tolerance and plurality of approach towards the Other, and harness the collective energy of all religions, drawing upon their universally-shared values, to pursue the promotion of equal citizenship rights. The Conference publication will be launched and made available once prevailing circumstances permit.

Tolerance, Inter-cultural and religious Dialogue, and Inclusiveness, are the indispensable pathways to egalitarian, peaceful and prosperous societies.

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