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By Justina Mutale, African Woman of the Year 2012
European Leadership Conference, 21-22 November 2013, London
African women and their potential contributions to economic advances, social progress and environmental protection have over the years been marginalized. In failing to utilise the potential and talents of their female populations, African countries are under investing in the human capital needed to assure sustainable development. Utilising women’s potential could increase economic growth, reduce poverty, enhance societal well being, and help ensure sustainable development in Africa.
'Inter-Religious Inclusion in Europe' session of the European Leadership Conference on “Human Rights: Are Democratic Nations Upholding the Standard?” was chaired by interfaith veteran; Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke, a retired Anglican priest, now holding the position of President of the World Congress of Faiths.
The first presentation, Freedom of Religion and Belief and Religious Freedom in Europe, was given by Mr Peter Zoehrer, Chief Editor and Secretary General of FOREF-Europe (Forum for Religious Freedom- Europe) and Advisor to Universal Peace Federation (UPF) - Europe on Human Rights. Before asking the question whether standards of religious freedom and inclusion are upheld by democratic nations, one must first define religious freedom.
He defines religious freedom as: a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance. The concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any religion. Freedom of religion is considered by many people and nations to be a fundamental human right.
“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”
Continuing Problems with Hungary’s Law on Religion
During the last two years I have devoted considerable research to assessing the impact of Hungary’s religion law on deregistered, or non-established, churches. This research has consisted of surveys as well as extensive field work carried out during extended visits in Hungary. Today, in the short time allotted to me, I would like to highlight what I see as key problems with Hungary’s law on religion. These problems can be grouped into two sets. The first set concerns the recognition procedure itself; the second set concerns the legal status of religious communities not recognized as churches. I will discuss these problems in turn, but to do so clearly let me first comment briefly on the religion law’s legislative history.
At a recent Universal Peace Federation consultation in Amman, I was made very aware that all the problems of the Middle East date back to the British interference. It was the same at a meeting in Dharamsala, at which the Dalai Lama was presiding – all the problems of the world seemed to date back to the Empire – so I said felt, as I was British, I had to apologise to everybody.
The British record on human rights is by no means perfect – but I think democracy, where opposition can be voiced, the rule of law can check the executive, and there is a free press certainly help (what else can say meeting here in the ‘Mother of Parliaments.’). Yet, I don’t think it is very useful to compare who has the best human rights record – but as the Qur’an says to challenge each other to compete in good works.
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