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The Religious Freedom Annual Review, sponsored by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU Law School, and co-sponsored by the Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University, was held virtually on June 15-16, 2021. The 2021 theme, “Religion’s Role in Overcoming Divides and Strengthening American Democracy,” was reiterated by the three keynote speakers, Peter Wehner, Elder Dale G. Renlund, and Sister Ruth Lybbert Renlund. The opening session concluded with remarks by Asma Uddin, L. Whitney Clayton, and Brett Scharffs on religious identity and dignity in America. 

Peter Wehner, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, stated that Christians ought to see others as equal. “Don’t withdraw from politics.” Christians should use Christianity to help define a “moral excellence…We’re called upon to be faithful—not successful,” and that Christians should “argue for truth, not for victory” …

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The Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AKP) came to power in Turkey in 2002. The AKP pledged to introduce freedoms and, during 19 years in government, has made some significant legal changes in line with the political criteria of the European Union (EU); this was because Turkey started the accession negotiations for full membership in 2005. However, it has failed to address many restrictions related to the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. As a result of this failure, Turkey was named in the 2021 report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom as one of the countries where the most serious contraventions of religious freedoms take place. In this article efforts will be made to understand the situation as regards the right to freedom of religion and belief in Turkey, concentrating on the most topical issues.

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Webinar Advancing Religious Freedom in Different Political Regimes held on 7 June 2021 to highlight opportunities and successful stories, as well as challenges and failures in promoting religious freedom globally. Each panelist reported on their work in respective political regimes, including Myanmar, Iraq, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the work that the International Center for Law and Religion Studies has done with different political regimes.

Brett Scharffs concluded with these remarks: “We have to care for each other in order for us to claim that [human dignity is] universal…. There are ways of advocating that are uniquely Western, but that doesn’t undermine the universality of the values of human dignity. Everyone, everywhere, cares about their own freedoms. These are human values that really are universal even though our models of advocacy can take on cultural characteristics. And sometimes we have to be careful about that.”

Panelists: Brett Scharffs, Seng Mai AungJán Figeľ, Mine Yildirim, Knox Thames, Elizabeth Clark.

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One explanation for the poor quality of Islamic Religious Education is the fact that the different Muslim communities are, in terms of ethnic/national origin, religious practice, and doctrine, very diversified, while at the same time the state requires them to unify in one single community. This has not only led to tensions within officially “recognized” Muslim Communities (e.g. in Austria and Belgium), but it has also led to an uneasy and unprofessional implementation of Islamic Religious Education, which is often Sunni-oriented and essentialist. In this regard, Austria is an interesting case: here, the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IRCA) and ALEVI are recognized as separate communities, while other claims for recognition, by the Shiites, are pending. 

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Human Dignity Initiative

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with an invitation to a global conversation about preserving and protecting human dignity for everyone everywhere.

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