• HRRC Participates in IWRAW Roundtable Discussion on Business and Women’s Human Rights

     
    Manila, 8 July 2015—The HRRC took part in the “IWRAW Asia Pacific Roundtable Discussion on Business and Women’s Human Rights,” which was held from 6-8 July 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) Asia Pacific convened the meeting to discuss the expanding role of business actors in shaping the discourse and content of development that impact on women’s human rights. It specifically looked at how IWRAW Asia Pacific could add value to the discourse on business and women’s human rights.
     
    IWRAW noted that businesses are now playing an important role at the international, national and local levels. While economic transformations have created opportunities for some women, inequalities—including based on gender-based discrimination—persist. IWRAW emphasized that the movement to create regional trade agreements that advance corporate interests requires gender equality activists to address the role of businesses and how businesses are influencing the advancement of women’s rights.
     
    The roundtable brought together key persons with knowledge on issues around business, trade agreements and economic policies, and women’s human rights. It was chaired by Professor Savitri Goonesekere, a member of IWRAW Asia Pacific’s Advisory Committee. Professor Savitri is Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and was formerly Professor of Law and Vice Chancellor, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and a member of the CEDAW Committee.
     
        
     
    Distinguished speakers also included Ms. Imrana Jalal, Senior Social Development Specialist at the Asian Development Bank. Ms. Jalal spoke on how international and regional financial institutions deal with business and women’s rights. She shared ADB’s commitment to invest in gender equality, informing the group that ADB’s policy requires gender equality considerations to be addressed across its operations. She stressed that gender equality and women’s empowerment are needed for economic growth, poverty reduction and inclusive development.
  • HRRC’s Freedom of Religion Roadshow Concludes in Manila

     
    Manila, 29 June 2015—The Human Rights Resource Centre, together with the Institute of Human Rights of the University of the Philippines Law Center, held a forum discussing the findings of the HRRC’s latest study, “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in the ASEAN.” The discussions focused on the application of the doctrine of separation of church and state in the Philippines as well as religious freedom in the context of societies in conflict or transition. The event began with remarks from Professor Concepcion Jardeleza, Associate Dean of the UP College of Law, and Professor Carolina Hernandez, HRRC Governing Board Member and Founding President of the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies.
     
    International Criminal Court Judge Raul Pangalangan, who authored the Philippine country report, noted that the Philippine Constitutions have historically provided for formal separation of church and state. He noted however that, in practice, there is no real separation. He recalled that religious leaders played a huge role in the Anti-Marcos movement and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference was active in the anti-Reproductive Health Bill movement. Catholic doctrine is also reflected in secular law, as can be observed in the absence of a divorce law. “The church has gone beyond the temple of worship and into the community to minister to the day-to-day needs,” Pangalangan said. There is thus an overlap in the spheres of the church and state.
     
    With regard to the quest for self-determination by Muslim groups in southern Mindanao and the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, Professor Pangalangan noted that “Religion is at best a proxy criterion that is meant to identify other elements.” This conclusion, according to him, finds support in the content of the 2012 Framework Agreement. The annexes of the Agreement have little to do with religion. They are instead more about political transitions, power and wealth sharing, and control over waters.
     
    Ms. Aviva Nababan, assistant researcher of the Indonesia country report, thereafter shared the experience of Indonesia with regard to freedom of religion, with the developments after the 1998 Reform in mind. “In Indonesia, freedom of religion is seen as an issue to be tackled not from the ‘freedom perspective’ but from the ‘public order perspective.’” She cited the Law on Prevention of Religious Blasphemy, arguing that what is considered as “blasphemous” is very arbitrary or vague. This has led to the proliferation of defamation complaints, with many people being convicted based on defamation of religion.
     
    She also highlighted problems brought about by decentralization. “There are a lot of regional regulations violating freedom of religion, or motivated by certain religious orthodoxies, issued on the basis of public order. All of these regulations are basically unconstitutional, but the processes to review them are proving ineffective.” Ms. Nababan also touched upon the Special Autonomy in Aceh, a status that provides a region more rights compared to others. The Special Autonomy in Aceh granted the region the right to issue regional regulations based on Syariah Islam, although they should not contradict national laws. The regulations, Qanuns, are at times restrictive and discriminative against women. One of the most worrying is Qanun Jinayat, passed in September 2014, which essentially provides for a different criminal law system from that of the national system and introduces corporal punishment for crimes. The Qanun has been described as problematic for non-Muslims and especially discriminatory and disadvantageous for women.
     
    Atty. Ishak Mastura of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission, Atty. Benedicto Bacani, Executive Director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, and Professor Grace Gorospe-Jamon of the UP Department of Political Science gave their comments on the study and the issues presented.
     
      
     
    Atty. Mastura, while agreeing with Prof. Pangalangan that religion is not the root of conflict in Mindanao, said that religion has been a source of division amongst peoples. He said that, in the construction of the Philippine state, there were different indigenous groups with their own identities who did not identify themselves as Filipino people. The Filipinization process, he argued, was done by Christians and the Muslim people were left out of it. Elaborating on religion as source of division, Mr. Mastura said, “On a personal level, Muslims are no different from their Christian brothers and sisters, or fellow Filipinos. It is only when they deal on a political level with others that they feel victimized and disadvantaged.”
     
    Speaking on separation of church and state, Atty. Bacani opined that the influence of the church on its members is diminishing, as can be seen with the enactment of the Reproductive Health Law in 2012 despite strong church opposition. “In the case of Mindanao, it is the reverse,” Mr. Bacani said. “You have a situation where there is a national policy of separation and this evolving policy allowing religious values in the whole public sphere.”
     
    With regard to the conflict in Mindanao, Bacani insisted that, “It is evident that a great part of it involves religion. So unless we really discuss the role of religion in conflict, we would not be able to move forward and fully understand what the issues are.” “Is the Bangsamoro an Islamic government or a secular government? This goes into the guarantees to be provided for the minorities in the Bangsamoro—the Christians and non-Muslim indigenous peoples.”
     
    Professor Grace Jamon noted that the church in the Philippines has been both progressive and retrogressive. The church has made relevant contributions in political history and its constituency is also a great consideration in order to achieve the kind of nation and democracy that Filipinos want. Pertaining to societies in conflict or transition, she said, “Transition gives rise to a lot of problems, but everything is, indeed, evolving. There are best practices that we can look at. Governance is a very important factor in solving problems regarding religious persecution and discrimination… We have to have an open mind and know that problem solving is an iteration process wherein you have to change strategies as you go along, as you understand the other better, and as you want the other to understand you better.”
     
    “Keeping the Faith” was produced with the support of the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta. The HRRC also receives support from the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice, the East West Center, and the University of Indonesia. The roadshow kicked off during the ASEAN People’s Forum in April in Kuala Lumpur. Forums were thereafter held with partner institutions in Singapore (April 30), Bandung and Bangkok (May 11), Jakarta (May 13), Bali (May 15), and Yogyakarta (May 30), before concluding in Manila.
     
      
  • Regional Consultation on Expression, Opinion and Religious Freedom in Asia Highlights Hazards in Criminalization and the Need for Movement to Change Paradigm

    Jakarta, 5 June 2015—HRRC participated in the Regional Consultation on Expression, Opinion and Religious Freedom in Asia held on 3-5 June 2015, in Jakarta, Indonesia. The consultation was organised by Bytes for All Pakistan, in collaboration with FORUM-ASIA, Global Partners Digital, the Association for Progressive Communication, the Internet Democracy Project, ICT Watch and KontraS. The organizers invited Dr. David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, as well as his predecessor, Mr. Frank La Rue.

    Dr. Kaye, in his keynote speech, observed that we live in a transitional moment, in a world where there are two overriding tensions: rule of law vs rule of identity. Rule of Law is described as the principle of being governed by objective rules adopted in democratic process, one of the aims of which is to protect the vulnerable. On the other hand, in rule of identity politics and law are constructed around an identity—either tribal, tradition, or way of seeing the world. Rule of identity, Dr. Kaye asserted, is of a great concern because the governing principle of identity is discriminatory. While he perceived that rule of identity has to be rejected, it would also be a mistake not to acknowledge the powerful hold of identity to people. Thus Dr. Kaye advocates for the implementation of Rabat Plan of Action, and to use it as a tool for advocacy. Its values should be consolidated, moving it from the international discourse to national implementation at the legal, political, and social levels.

    Mr. Frank La Rue noted that, while limitation of hate speech is in some contexts necessary, any limitation of the right needs to be for the purpose of protecting against violation of rights and should be necessary and proportional, pursuant to Article 19 and 20 of ICCPR. He advocated for minimization of criminalization, recalling that while Article 19 includes the reputation and honour of individuals as a cause for limitation, it can take the form of defamation as a civil law matter. Limitation based on national security, public order, public health and public moral, Mr. La Rue emphasized, has to be clearly defined and cannot be decided or issued by the implementing authorities.

    Attended by human rights defenders, activists and journalists from various parts of Asia, the consultation served as a forum to discuss and debate issues related to freedom of religious expression in Asia. During the two and a half days, discussions amongst participants noted the regional trends and challenges related to freedom of expression in the context of religion, including politicization of religion—which gives rise to reluctance on the part of the State to bring perpetrators to justice for fear of losing popular support, if not outright legitimization of human rights violations. It was also noted that there is a revitalization of the discourse on defamation of religion, coupled by reluctance by several governments in Asia to heed the international community to decriminalize blasphemy and apostasy. 

  • Keeping the Faith Roadshow: Discussion in Yogyakarta Underlines the Importance of Anti Discrimination Principles

    Yogyakarta, 30 May 2015—The “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in ASEAN” discussion series arrived in Yogyakarta today. Held in collaboration with HRRC’s partner, the Law Faculty of Gadjah Mada University (UGM), the event was also organized with the support of the Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS UGM), the Center for Human Rights Studies of the Islamic University of Indonesia (PUSHAM UII), and the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights.

    Ms. Lindayanti Sulistiawati SH, Msc, PhD, set the tone of the ensuing discussion in her opening remarks, reminding the audience that “Indonesia has been a melting pot for hundreds of years, a collection of people with diverse, ethnicities, languages, and faith.” Thus, she asserted the importance of discussing Indonesia’s position in terms of religious tolerance, and to also consider ASEAN’s role in this and other regional issues. Referring to the recent crisis relating to Ronghiya refugees, she emphasized that “We need to know where ASEAN is standing, now that ASEAN is about to open its doors to everyone.” Professor Tore Lindholm from the Oslo Coalition echoed the sentiment. He noted that Indonesia is one of the most important member states in the region, thus it is compelled to take the lead in human rights issues, including the refugee crisis. “There are measures that the government must do should the population demand it, including to help people in another country that need it.”  Thus he called for Indonesians and other citizens in ASEAN to cultivate a feeling of solidarity, not only because the persecuted are people of the same religion, but out of sheer humanity.

    Presenters at the event included Ms. Faith Delos Reyes, HRRC Research and Project Coordinator, who highlighted the trends in the region, and Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, the Director of CRCS and author of the Indonesia report in “Keeping The Faith.” Dr. Bagir underlined the fact that since the emergence of democracy in Indonesia in 1998, it has experienced progress in terms of acceding to human rights legal instruments. However, weak rule of law, politicization of religion, and the fact that democracy also opens the space for extremist groups are challenges that continue to occur. He observed that persecution of religious minorities is a result of the “State allowing people to use violence toward others they do not like, and allowing them to mobilize the population against minority groups.”

    Picking up the tone, Dr. Lena Larsen from the Oslo Coalition argued that “The State has the duty to protect religious interpretations, and this is difficult to implement with a monolithic understanding of religion.” A monolithic understanding of religion occurs when a religious norm becomes legalized, thus condemning any other interpretation deviating from that norm as a crime, as immoral, or a form of defamation. This practice suppresses crucial discussions from taking place, including with regard to gender equality, cautioned Dr Larsen.

    Mr. Eko Riyadi, the Director of PUSHAM UII, agreed with Dr. Larsen, noting that “It is most dangerous when the law is mixed with customs and power.” He asserted that discourse on freedom of religion and religious tolerance when placed in the context of theological debate will never be resolved. He suggested that it might be best to place the issue “in the context that the State has the duty to protect the rights of all human beings, whoever he is and whatever their belief or what they do not belief.” This sentiment was again underlined by Dr. Larsen at the end of discussion, stating that “The rules should be based on the principle of non-discrimination. This is the role and obligation of the State, in addition to guaranteeing well-being of the people, regardless of belief, race and other. This is the essence of the State, to provide justice for all people”.

    “Keeping the Faith” was produced with the support of the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta. The HRRC also receives support from the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice, the East West Center, and the University of Indonesia. The last roadshow will take place on 29 June at the University of Philippines in Metro Manila. If you are interested to participate, please email us at info@hrrca.org.

  • In Bali, “Keeping the Faith” Roadshow Highlights Local Values that Respect Rights of All Religions as Key to Harmony

     
    Bali, 15 May 2015—At the roadshow hosted by the Human Rights Resource Centre and the Faculty of Law of Udayana University (FH UNUD) to consider the findings of “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in ASEAN,” discussions highlighted the correlation between decentralization and freedom of religion in Bali.
     
    Indonesia’s religious demographics can vary from region to region, with different parts of Indonesia having different majority-minority composition. While around 87% of Indonesia’s population are adherents of Islam, over 80% of the Bali’s population are Hindus. Despite this marked dominance of Hinduism, the different religions live together in harmony in Bali. The speakers thus focused on Bali’s strong customary law system and how it interacts with the national legal structure. Examples from ASEAN of inconsistent regulation or protection of the right to freedom of religion and belief from locality to locality were also highlighted.
     
    Ms. Faith Delos Reyes, HRRC Research and Project Coordinator, shared the main findings of “Keeping The Faith” before focusing on the impact of decentralisation and unequal application of the law. She noted that, in some countries, not only is there varying implementation of the law, but the laws or policies themselves can vary. This appears to be true in Indonesia. "The report notes that decentralisation is a double edged sword. While it gives local governments the power to issue and implement policies that are most responsive to the needs of the community, this power can be misused to give effect to policies that reflect only the interest of the religious majority. There has to be an effective system to rectify such misuse."
     
    Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, Director of the Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies (CRCS) at Gadjah Mada University and author of the Indonesia country report in “Keeping the Faith,” thereafter gave a presentation of his report. Currently there are more than 500 regencies or townships from Indonesia’s 33 provinces. These regencies have issued their own local regulations, which remain unchecked as to whether or not they conflict with prevailing laws issued by the central government. Dr. Bagir concluded that decentralization has become a tool for intolerance, as shown by the number of discriminative local regulations issued by some regencies.
     
        
     
    Professor I Wayan Windia, a prominent author on Balinese customary law, discussed freedom of religion from the perspective of Balinese customary law. Sharing his personal observation, Professor Windia said that while post-1999 frictions arose between the village and investors invited by the head of the local regency, rarely did conflict happen because of religion. The Balinese Hindus have always considered the practice of other religions. For instance, when the Hindu’s are required to stay indoors to observe Nyepi or “Day of Silence,” Muslims are still able to attend Friday noon prayer, albeit without a loudspeaker.
     
    “Keeping the Faith” was launched in January 2015 and was produced with the support of the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta. The HRRC also receives support from the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice, the East West Center, and the University of Indonesia. This discussion in Bali is part of a regional roadshow that kicked off in April at the ASEAN People’s Forum in Kuala Lumpur.
  • “Keeping the Faith” Roadshow in Jakarta Highlights Importance of Multi-Disciplinary Discourse in Addressing Freedom of Religion in Indonesia

     
    Jakarta, 13 May 2015— The Human Rights Resource Centre, in collaboration with the Human Rights Center of the Law Faculty of the University of Indonesia (SENTRA HAM UI) and Abdurrahman Wahid Center at the University of Indonesia (AWC UI), today held a discussion on the findings of “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in ASEAN.” As in the event in Bandung held earlier in the week, the resource persons and participants focused on the role of the state in protecting freedom of religion and belief. The event was opened by the Acting Executive Director of HRRC, Prof. Dr. Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, S.H.MA., and the Dean of the Law Faculty of University of Indonesia, Prof. Topo Santoso, S.H., M.H., Ph.D.
     
    Sharing the main findings of “Keeping The Faith” on the general trend of freedom of region and belief in ASEAN, Ms. Faith Delos Reyes, HRRC Research and Project Coordinator, highlighted the important role of civil society in supporting the state in maintaining religious harmony. She cited as examples grassroots activities like the Panzagar movement to halt hate speech in Myanmar and religious organisations such as the Muhammadiyah and Nahdhatul Ulama in Indonesia that endorse moderate religious views and recognize equal rights of religious minorities. She however also emphasized the importance of good governance, rule of law, and the state’s involvement as a neutral mediator in inter-belief dialogue.
     
    Focusing on the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, Ms. Delos Reyes said that ”While not a perfect document, the Declaration is a political statement that shows the willingness of Member States to improve human rights, including freedom of religion and belief. ASEAN as a region is interlinked, and this has become increasingly clear with calls from across the region to address the situation of the Rohingyas. Human rights problems of one country do impact neighbouring ones, and we should engage with the Member States and urge them to realise the commitments expressed in the Declaration as well as in other international instruments they are Parties to.”
     
    Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, Director of the Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies (CRCS) at Gadjah Mada University and author of the Indonesia country report in “Keeping the Faith,” focused on the country’s freedom of religion situation. “Law both shapes the society and is shaped by the society. Thus, engagement with the society is important to end discrimination and persecution against religious and belief minorities.” Specifically on the Law on Anti-Blasphemy in Indonesia, “there is a need to raise awareness in the society to repeal laws that open the room or pathway toward intolerance,” Dr. Bagir emphasized.
     
    The Coordinator of AWC UI, Mr. Ahmad Suaedy, agreed with Dr. Bagir that the matter of protection of freedom of religion is not only about enactment and enforcement of laws. He emphasized the need for non-politicized forums for religious harmony as well as strong political will that is expressed by ensuring there is protection for law enforcers who resist communal pressure to discriminate and persecute minorities. “Problems related to religion and belief cannot be solved only by religious leaders,” he emphasized, “they have to be discussed and solved by involving other actors such as government agencies, law practitioners, city experts, and urban planners.”
     
    Echoing this stance, the Chairperson of SENTRA HAM, Dr. Hadi Purnama, quoted Roscoe Pound and said that “Law is a tool of social engineering.” There is a need for a legal system that is built by involving relevant actors, which provides consistent protection to minorities from the highest to the lowest legal instrument. He called upon the Ministry of Law and Human Rights to take a more active role in ensuring quality and consistency of legal instruments relating to freedom of religion in Indonesia.
     
    “Keeping the Faith” was produced with the support of the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta. The HRRC also receives support from the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice, the East West Center, and the University of Indonesia. The roadshow kicked off during the ASEAN People’s Forum in April in Kuala Lumpur. The next roadshows will take place on 30 May at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta and June 29 in Manila. If you are interested to participate, please email us at info@hrrca.org.
  • “Keeping the Faith” Roadshow in Bandung Discusses the Role of the State in Upholding Freedom of Religion in Indonesia and Other Multi-Faith Countries

     
    Bandung, 11 May 2015—Today the Human Rights Resource Centre, together with the Community for Human Rights of the Law Faculty of Padjadjaran University (PAHAM FH UNPAD), held a discussion on the role of the state in protecting freedom of thought, conscience and religion (FOTCR) at the Law Faculty of Padjadjaran University in Bandung. This event is part of a series of workshops for the dissemination of “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in ASEAN.”
     
    The event was attended by representatives from civil society organizations and local offices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs from a number of regions in West Java as well as academicians and university students.
     
    In his opening remarks, Dr. Gusman Siswandi, Director of Cooperation of Padjadjaran University Law Faculty, noted the importance of holding discussions and encouraging healthy discourse on freedom of religion among various stakeholders. Ms. Faith Delos Reyes, HRRC’s Research and Project Coordinator, shared the main findings of “Keeping the Faith” with regard to the general trend of freedom of religion and belief in the region. She outlined three main factors that threaten FOTCR in a number of ASEAN member countries, namely politicization of religion, ethno-religious nationalism, and weak rule of law. She noted that ASEAN Member States regulate religion differently, but “what is crucial in preventing religious intolerance and persecution is the state’s commitment and ability to afford all groups with equal protection,” she emphasized. “It is necessary for a state to balance the interests of different groups through rule of law.”
     
      
     
    The Director of PAHAM FH UNPAD, Dr. Susi Harjanti, focused on the legal system in Indonesia, stating that “the concept of human rights will be meaningless without the instrument to implement it.” She pointed to the need for good legal drafting and consistency among the legal instruments in Indonesia. Particularly on freedom of religion, Dr. Harjanti stressed the importance of dialogue in order to formulate the best way to protect this freedom in Indonesia.
     
    Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, Director of the Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies (CRCS) at Gadjah Mada University and author of the Indonesia country report in “Keeping the Faith,” concurred that “Discussions on different interpretations of legal and religious concepts are necessary, and a legal system should accommodate rather than restrict such discourse.” Dr. Bagir also reflected on the condition of FOTCR in Indonesia post 1998 and the international discourse on human rights. “Protection of freedom of religion should not be hindered by discussions or objections based on conceptual critique of the international human rights regime. It is clear that there are victims of discrimination and persecution, and the state should not fail to protect them.”
     
    “Keeping the Faith” was produced with the support of the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta. The HRRC also receives support from the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice, the East West Center, and the University of Indonesia. The roadshow kicked off during the ASEAN People’s Forum in April in Kuala Lumpur. This month, the HRRC will be hosting discussions on 13 May at the Depok Campus of University of Indonesia, 15 May at Udayana University in Bali, and 30 May at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta.
  • “Keeping the Faith” Roadshow Comes to Singapore to Explore Best Practices and Challenges in Promoting Inter-Belief Harmony

     
    Singapore, 30 April 2015—The Human Rights Resource Centre today presented its latest research study, “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in ASEAN,” at the National University of Singapore. The event was hosted by the Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS), headed by Professor Andrew Harding.
     
    During his remarks as Guest of Honour, H.E. Bilahari Kausikan,
 Ambassador-at-Large and Policy Advisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaking in his personal capacity, argued for a practical approach to human rights and for the recognition “that not all rights are compatible or capable of simultaneous realization.” He then highlighted the important role of the state in maintaining the balance among conflicting belief systems. He observed that the conception of rights that is predominant in the west is one in which rights are held by the individual against an overly powerful state. “But the essential problem in much of the rest of the world, and in my view certainly in Southeast Asia as regards freedom of belief, arises when the state is too weak to hold the balance between competing belief systems or too timid to be willing to resist political pressures to privilege one belief system over another.” Thus, Ambassador Kausikan said that it is a matter of determining the most urgent priority—which will vary according to specific circumstances. “You cannot—or at least only very rarely can—do everything simultaneously, particularly when the state is weak.”
     
     
      
     
    According to Mr. Eugene Tan, Associate Professor of Law at the Singapore Management University and author of the report on Singapore, the state’s neutral stance in mediating conflicts and its firm commitment to having all parties take part in regular dialogues have helped trust- and confidence-building, ensuring that different beliefs co-exist harmoniously in Singapore. Tan, however, cautioned that intrusive government regulation could stifle religious groups’ ability to engage each other as well as hamper society’s effort to nurture resilience against forces that seek to divide in the name of religion. “Governments have to provide ample space for people to practise their faith as well as be fair and even-handed in how they treat the various religious and belief systems, including those who subscribe to none,” he said.
     
        
     
    Dr. Jaclyn Neo, lead researcher of the study, pointed to the implications on regional peace and security of states’ failure to deal with concerns relating to freedom of religion or belief within their respective countries. She stressed the important role of ASEAN, noting positively that the ASEAN Foreign Ministers had committed in September 2014 and again in January 2015 to work with the international community to fight against extremism, radicalism and terrorism and, most importantly, address its root causes. Aside from governments taking a more active role, Dr. Neo said that religious adherents and religious networks could also contribute to inter-belief harmony. “In ASEAN, a religion that is the minority in one country is the majority religion in another. One possibility that could be explored is for religious adherents to assist their co-religionists in another state in bridging disagreements with other belief systems.”
     
    The Study, consisting of 10 country reports and a Synthesis Report, is the product of experts and researchers working in the fields of law, government, human rights, and/or academia, who are mostly citizens of ASEAN Member-States. The HRRC’s regional road show kicked off during the ASEAN People’s Forum in Kuala Lumpur earlier this April. The next dialogues are planned to be held in Bangkok and Bandung on 11 May. 
     

    *The views of government representatives or participants and guest speakers in HRRC events do not represent the views of the Human Rights Resource Centre, which is an independent, not-for-profit partnership network spanning 7 out of 10 ASEAN countries and headquartered at the University of Indonesia.

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