IIRF sent a representative to the recent conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Southeast Asia (SEAFORB). There were 140 or so attendees from around the world with the largest number of participants coming from ASEAN nations. Speakers, moderators and facilitators included academics from universities, ASEAN parliamentarians, national parliamentarians, journalists, and advocates.
Some notable attendees from the international community included the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr. Nazila Ghanea; a commissioner with USCIRF, Stephen Schenck; several persons from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michael Weiner and Dr. Ibrahim Salama; a senior policy analyst from USCIRF, Kurt Werthmuller; several foreign affair officers from the IRF office in the US state department; project leaders from the Oslo based Stefanus Alliance; the founding director of BYU’s center for law and religion studies, Cole Durham; and RFI’s Director of South and Southeast Asia action team, Paul Marshall.
There was a balance between plenary and workshop sessions with the majority of speakers coming from ASEAN nations. The conference had an emphasis on grass roots efforts, advocating for policy changes, and taking intentional steps toward becoming a formal institution. This followed the stated goals of SEAFORB 2022 which were to:
- Provide a platform of dialogue, sharing lessons learned, exchange ideas and good practices among local, regional and international stakeholders working on issues related to promotion and protection of FORB in Southeast Asia.
- Strengthen the SEAFORB network emphasizing the bottom-up approach on institutionalization process toward a more permanent network for collaboration on advocacy, FORB promotion, and capacity building.
- Contribute to the G20 commitment on digital transformation for global social-economic recovery from the perspective of promotion and protection of FORB.