The Role of Religious Freedom Rights in Building a Free, Just, and Mutually Supportive Society

W. Cole Durham, Jr., is founding director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) and president of the G20 Interfaith Forum. He presented the following remarks[1] at the Second Brazilian Symposium on Religious Freedom in Brasília, Brazil, 8–10 August 2023. The Symposium was organized by both the ICLRS and the Brazilian Center for Law and Religion Studies (Centro Brasileiro de Estudos em Direito e Religião, CEDIRE), Faculty of Law, Federal University of Uberlândia. This essay first appeared on the G20 Interfaith Blog.


It is a particular honor for me to launch our discussions at this Second Brazilian Symposium on Religious Freedom. I have had several opportunities over the past two decades to visit Brazil, and I have consistently been impressed with the strong commitment of Brazil’s people and its government to the highest standards of freedom of religion or belief. Article 5, clause VI, of the Brazilian Constitution provides that “freedom of conscience and belief is inviolable, assuring free exercise of religious beliefs and guaranteeing, as set forth in law, protection of places of worship and their rites.”[2] This clause provides broad protection for religious freedom, which is generally respected by both the government and the populace. As in all societies, there are recurring problems and imperfections in enforcement, but in general, it is fair to say that Brazil is a country with a particularly strong record when it comes to religious freedom.


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The Pope and the War

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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On Spiritual Resources and Common Homes: A Look at Crimes in Ukraine in Conversation with Raphael Lemkin and Pope Francis

Greg Marcar is a research associate at the Centre for Theology and Public Issues at the University of Otago (New Zealand). He is also a co-editor, with Tania Pagotto and Joshua Roose, of Security, Religion, and the Rule of Law: International Perspectives (Routledge, forthcoming).


Coined by the father of the 1950 Genocide Convention, Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin (1900–59), the term genocide combines the Latin term cide (killing) with the Greek term genos (group). In deciding on this combination of terms, Lemkin rejected the suggestion that cide should be more straightforwardly combined with the Latin genus.[1] Lemkin’s rationale for this centered on his belief that the Greek term was broader in scope than its Latin equivalent,[2] as exemplified for Lemkin by the epistles of (Pseudo)Plato, identifying philosophers as a genos.[3] For Lemkin and his supporters at the UN, what makes a particular collectivity a human genos is its religious, philosophical, or cultural spirit. Consequently, genocide signifies an attempt not only to eradicate a genos’s physical existence but also to destroy its cultural-spiritual “life.”[4] Indeed, Lemkin elsewhere argues that “[t]he philosophy of the Genocide Convention” entails that human groups be protected “not only by reasons of human compassion but also to prevent draining the spiritual resources of [hu]mankind.”[5] Although not always understood as such, the concept of genocide expounded by Lemkin was inextricably connected to human spirit.


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