Within just a few days, two important FoRB meetings took place in the United Kingdom. Wilton Park, part of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), brought together critical civil society representatives – including religious actors – with policymakers and experts from around the world from 29 June - 1 July 2022. The meeting was organised in cooperation with the Adyan Foundation, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, KAICIID, the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD), the University of Sussex, and USAID. It is a run-up to the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief, hosted by the UK Government in London from 5 - 6 July 2022.
FoRB: Small Words, big Difference?
Appointed in 2020, Fiona Bruce, the UK’s FoRB Envoy, is a member of Parliament and part of a growing number of national lawmakers who represent their counties as envoys, ambassadors, or special representatives on FoRB issues. Most, like Bruce or Germany’s new FoRB commissioner Frank Schwabe and Italy’s Andrea Benzo, have strong ties to human and minority rights topics and interfaith cooperation.
Religion and belief give people orientation. Freedom of religion or belief is a central human right closely interlinked with various other human rights. Where one of these rights is missing, others are often missing too.
Although the post is currently vacant, the European Union (EU) appointed its first Special Envoy for FoRB in 2016. Soon EU member states and others also began naming representatives. In 2018 and 2019, the United States hosted the first and second Ministerial on Freedom of Religion. In 2020, when Poland hosted, the conference added belief to its title.
The event attracts high-level politicians. In 2018, the conference was hosted by then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In 2022, the Ministerial Conference was opened in London by the United Kingdom’s highest state, and political representatives, including the Prince of Wales. Moreover, the Prime Minister, and several current and former ministers spoke during the conference, including Rashad Hussain, US Ambassador at Large, Office of International Religious Freedom, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Lord Ahmad, Minister for South Asia, North Africa, the United Nations and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt, Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee.