HRRC Concludes Round of Consultations on “Keeping the Faith: A Study on Religious Freedom in ASEAN”

Jakarta, 5 December 2014—The Human Rights Resource Centre today concludes the round of consultations for its upcoming study, “Keeping the Faith: A Study on Religious Freedom in ASEAN.” The Study will comprise ten Country Reports, covering each of the ASEAN member-states, as well as a Synthesis Report that would provide an overview of the state of religious freedom in the region.

Since the completion of the draft Synthesis and Country Reports at the end of July 2014, the HRRC has sought feedback on the reports from experts and practitioners engaged in the promotion and protection of religious freedom. Aside from providing a number of respected experts, academics, and government representatives with drafts of the reports, the HRRC has also held two experts meetings.

A consultation was first held on 10 August 2014 in Singapore. This consultation was attended by Professor Kevin Tan of the National University of Singapore and Professor Tore Lindholm of the University of Oslo (both Advisors of the study), the Lead Researcher, and staff of the HRRC. Inputs of Professors Tan and Lindholm and the other Advisors of the study, including Mr. Brett Scharrfs of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University; Ms. Sidney Jones of the Institute for Policy Analysis on Conflict; Professor Cole Durham of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies; and Professor David Cohen of the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice, had also been obtained at various stages of the drafting of the reports. This first consultation was held for the purpose of advising the Lead Researcher and staff of the HRRC on the overall direction of the study. The deliberately small and intimate setting allowed for honest discussions and analysis with regard to the progress of the reports and the challenges that need to be addressed.

A broader consultation was subsequently conducted on 8 October 2014 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Attended by members of the academe, NGOs, and a few government representatives, the consultation gave practitioners in the field a chance to comment, provide suggestions, and even criticise the methodology and the findings of the study. The regional consultation provided the researchers and the staff of the HRRC with different perspectives from which to view the issue of freedom of religion, thought, conscience, and belief.

The study has benefitted significantly from the consultations, with experts and practitioners charitably giving their time to review and comment on the reports. A group of NGOs also took the initiative of drafting a letter providing helpful comments on the report. The study is also richer because of the new information provided by experts that the team consulted with.

The study is currently undergoing a final editing process and is anticipated to be launched in January in Jakarta, Indonesia. “Keeping the Faith: A Study on Religious Freedom in ASEAN” is supported by the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta.