13.12.11 11:47 Age: 83 days

WCC consultation promotes human right to religious freedom


Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, vice-moderator of WCC Central Committee at the consultation in Istanbul

A communiqué adopted at a World Council of Churches (WCC) consultation in Turkey advocates international standards of protecting religious minorities’ rights to freedom of religious expression.


The communiqué was drafted at the International Study Consultation on Freedom of Religion and the Rights of Religious Minorities organized by the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) and hosted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople from 28 November to 2 December in Istanbul.


“Discriminatory legislation and state practices provide a legitimizing framework for wider discrimination in society, deprivation, social exclusion and violence towards minorities. This inevitably results in systematic discrimination, which threatens the social fabric of societies,” states the communiqué.


“Many individuals are facing serious difficulties in freely professing and practicing their religion. In certain cases there is also state interference in the decision-making processes of a religious group, while in other cases religious law and jurisprudence  are imposed by state sanction.”


“At the same time, existing blasphemy laws have a chilling effect on public discourse and on the right to profess religion or belief, which has a disproportionate impact on members of minority religions,” the communiqué continues.


The communiqué was prepared by participants of the consultation representing churches, Christian organizations, academia, civil society, human rights organizations and legal professionals from 23 countries in Africa, Asia, Middle East, the Americas and Europe.


Since the last study on the subject of freedom of religion by CCIA in 1981, there have been several political developments following the cold war and the rise of religious extremism. Dr Mathews George Chunakara, director of the CCIA, says, “Taking account of these factors and building on the outcomes of the Istanbul consultation, WCC will be analyzing these emerging trends in other countries.”


The consultation was mandated by the CCIA’s 50th meeting in 2010, and follows the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, which took place in Kingston, Jamaica in May of this year.


The final report prepared in early 2012 by a CCIA working group will be presented at the CCIA meeting in China in June 2012 seeking a mandate for further follow-up actions. A WCC statement is to be presented on “freedom of religion and rights of religious minorities” at the upcoming 10th Assembly of the WCC at Busan, Korea in 2013.


The final report adopted at the CCIA meeting in China will be shared with the WCC’s constituency.



Read the full communiqué: WCC/CCIA consultation on “Freedom of Religion and Rights of Religious Minorities” Turkey 2011


WCC general secretary visits Pakistan calling for protection of minorities (WCC press release of 13 October 2011)


More information on WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs


WCC programme on human rights