Migration and role of religion discussed at major European gathering

October 8, 2015
Opening session of the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2015 in Warsaw on 21 September. (Photo by OSCE/Piotr Markowski)

WARSAW, Poland — The Brussels Office of the Baha'i International Community (BIC) recently participated in Europe's largest annual human rights and democracy conference—the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM). The event was organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and took place from 21 September until 2 October in Warsaw, Poland.

57 countries from among the OSCE states were joined by a number of other agencies—including OSCE structures, civil society organizations and a range of relevant actors.

The session on tolerance and non-discrimination, which dealt in particular with combating racism and xenophobia, focused on discrimination against religious communities. OSCE-participating States had previously committed to the prevention of such intolerance and discrimination by "encouraging the development of comprehensive domestic education policies" as well as "through increased awareness raising measures".

During the session, Rachel Bayani, representative of the BIC, encouraged the OSCE to explore how educational processes and capacity-building endeavors can reinforce the collective awareness of humanity's oneness, especially among the youth and younger generations.

In her comments, Ms. Bayani stated that "intolerance and discrimination essentially are manifestations of a tendency to identify narrowly with certain social, cultural, physical or other such characteristics and place them at the center of our understanding of self".

"In order to help prevent such narrow identifications, there is a need to search for ways to strengthen the collective awareness of humanity's underlying oneness and to broaden the understanding of our primary over-arching human identity," she continued.

The session on freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief provided an opportunity to discuss existing challenges to the full exercise of the right to the above in the OSCE area and the means by which all relevant actors, including religious communities, can work together in order to address these challenges.

Ms. Bayani said that the promotion of the right to freedom of religion or belief needs to go hand in hand with a deeper understanding of how religion contributes to the advancement of society.

"It is not surprising that perceptions of how religion contributes to society tend to get clouded, given some destructive expressions of religious belief that appear throughout the world and in Europe today," she stated.

"There is a need to start a collective process of identifying a framework that will allow the constructive powers of religion to find expression. The Bahai International Community encourages the OSCE to start a process of exploring how religion, its principles, its concepts and its insights, contribute to resolving conflict, to facilitating greater social harmony and to creating stable and peaceful societies."

Video coverage of the BIC contributions on tolerance and non-discrimination as well as on freedom of religion or belief are available at http://www.osce.org/odihr/181256.