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Series: Religious Freedom and SOGI Rights: Reflections on the UN Independent Expert Report

by Marie Juul Petersen, Thiago Alves Pinto, Montserrat Gas Aixendi, Christine Venter, and Dmytro Vovk

… The Independent Expert’s report introduces some theoretical novelties to international law discourse (such as a homocolonialism argument against the enactment of anti-LGBT+ legislation), proposes or reinforces several practical approaches to dealing with problematic issues like anti-LGBT+ hate speech and state-sanctioned violence and discrimination against LGBT+ people, and provides recommendations regarding human rights advocacy in the domain of religious freedom and LGBT+ rights.

This series contributes to a wider discussion of the report. The series authors—scholars and practitioners with expertise in religious freedom and gender issues—touch on both the conceptual premises of the report and the workability of solutions offered by the UN Independent Expert.

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Religious freedom is modernity’s master key to solving the riddle of how to achieve stable peace in a world of deep differences. It is not just that we have an urgent set of religion-related problems that need to be solved; it is that we need the principle of religious freedom to solve the underlying problem. Within the interlocking network of human rights, the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief plays a particularly significant, but often forgotten or underestimated, role. But its importance is forgotten at our peril.

My aim in what follows is to argue that freedom of religion or belief provides the fundamental underlying social and political architecture that is vital for achieving a free, just, and sustainable, mutually supportive society. The argument in brief is that the ideal of human dignity, which includes freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, is critical to stabilizing just social orders and, as such, is critical to just peace at all levels—global, national, local, familial, and individual relations.

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Series: The Pope and the War

by Regina Elsner, Pavlo Smytsnyuk, Thomas Mark Németh, and Greg Marcar

This series explores how Pope Francis as the head of the Catholic Church and the Vatican deals with the Russia-Ukraine war.

Many observers call the Pope’s approach ambiguous. On the one hand, the Catholic Church has provided humanitarian support to Ukrainians affected by the war from its very beginning in 2014. For example, from 2016 to 2018 the Catholic Church raised almost €16 million through the “Pope for Ukraine” initiative and funded several programs for internally displaced people and those living in the combat zone. Such programs provided mobile health clinics, food vouchers, and psychological help for adults and minors; and repaired and insulated houses damaged by the war. Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Pope Francis has made several public speeches and gestures in support of Ukrainian victims of the war and has tried to advance humanitarian efforts—including attempts to facilitate the return to Ukraine of Ukrainian children deported by Russia—and to highlight the moral catastrophe of the Bucha massacre and similar crimes.

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… As an outsider, I always try to enter a space with humility. I also think it’s equally valuable for clergy, whether they are serving as mediators or negotiators, to be humble (and many of them are). I feel and demonstrate that I am open to advice on how to deal with the problem. [But] once I had an experience with a member of the clergy who had no interest in talking to parents of a Bar Mitzvah boy about their expectations [for the ceremony]. It was a straight line—God, Halakha, rabbi—you (parents) follow. I found this attitude deeply unsatisfying, to say the least. Humility on all sides is one of those things that helps resolve disputes. The other thing is curiosity: “Let me understand why this is important to you; let me understand where you are coming from; tell me more about that.” For me, the best conversations in the Torah occur when people are curious—when they want to know more. Both humility and curiosity are values that are consistent with our religious tradition and are effective in terms of resolving disputes.

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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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