Advancing Religious Freedom in Different Political Regimes: Personal Stories

Dmytro Vovk is Director of the Centre for the Rule of Law and Religion Studies, Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and co-editor of Talk About: Law and Religion

In June 2021 the ICLRS Blog, “Talk About: Law and Religion,” hosted a webinar on advancing religious freedom in different political regimes. The panelists (Brett G. Scharffs, Seng Mai Aung, Ján Figeľ, Mine Yildirim, Knox Thames, and Elizabeth A. Clark) talked about their personal experiences in Iraq, Myanmar, Pakistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan focusing on challenges and restrictions religious and belief communities face in these countries and other parts of the world. They shared their thoughts on human rights compliance, the basics of religious freedom advocacy and internationals’ interacting with local authorities and religious communities, discussed what worked and did not work in promoting religious freedom globally and why efforts to promote religious freedom was sometimes a matter of both international and domestic politics.

The speakers also touched upon the role religious communities could play in advancing religious freedom for all and reflected on different types of criticism of international religious freedom initiatives and programs. Concerning this criticism Brett G. Scharffs pointed out:

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.

This blog series contains extended versions of the panelists’ presentations based on the questions and the discussion that emerged during the webinar.

Posts in the Series:

Brett G. Scharffs & Seng Mai Aung, Religious Freedom in Difficult Places

Jan Figel’, Advancing Religious Freedom in Different Political Regimes

Mine Yildirim, In for the Long Haul—Advocating for Freedom of Religion or Belief

Knox Thames, Saving Iraqi Religious Minorities and Their Heritage

Elizabeth A. Clark, Advancing Religious Freedom in Different Political Regimes in Theory and Practice