Religious liberty in the Middle East

Egyptian protesters demonstrate to end the government of Hosni Mubarak, February 2011

We’ve all seen the extraordinary events unfold in the Middle East and North Africa over the past few months – part political, part religious, partly attempts to force recalcitrant regimes to catch up with the rest of the world, and commit to responsible government, and take human rights a little more seriously.

Now the Religious Liberty Partnership, an umbrella group for religious freedom organisations, has called on governments in the region to “ensure that all citizens are granted the foundational human right to adopt a religion or belief of their choice,” and has made recommendations for integrating freedom of religion into newly formed governments.

It would be regrettable if political reforms and leadership changes were followed by further crackdowns on the right to hold and practice religious beliefs according to individual conscience, such as we enjoy here in Australia.

Religiously motivated violence and repression have been evident in the wake of some of the revolutionary change sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East. The Australian government must redouble its efforts toward building free societies which respect and defend the human rights of all citizens, including the foundational right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, Sunday 12 June 2011.

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