HRRC Presents “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in ASEAN” in Oslo

Jakarta, 24 March 2015—On 12 March 2015, the Human Rights Resource Centre presented “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in ASEAN” at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR), University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway. The launch seminar for the HRRC’s latest report was hosted by the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief (OC), which is headed by its Project Director, Ms. Lena Larsen. 

Ms. Inga Bostad, Director of the NCHR, welcomed around 40 participants from academia, governments, and CSOs to the launch. Ambassador Petter Wille of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway also addressed the attendees at the start of the program. Ms. Michelle Staggs Kelsall, HRRC’s Deputy Director, gave the background of the study, including its purpose and methodology as well as the ASEAN context. 

The lead researcher of the study, Dr. Jaclyn L. Neo of the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, presented the main findings of the report. Aside from discussing the ASEAN legal framework, Dr. Neo highlighted areas of increasing intolerance and conflict in the region. Drawing trends from the country reports, Dr. Neo argued that politicization of religion, ethno-religious nationalism, religious conservatism, and weak state are key factors contributing to religious intolerance in ASEAN.

A brief discussion of the Indonesian country report between Mr. Aksel Tømte (NCHR Indonesia Program) and Ms. Aviva Nababan (HRRC Governing Board Member) then followed. Iselin Frydenlund (NCHR researcher) and Faith Delos Reyes (HRRC Research and Project Coordinator) thereafter discussed the Myanmar country report. A panel discussion was then held, with the team from HRRC answering questions that focused mostly on the ASEAN framework and the factors that surround religious conflict in the region. Mr. Tore Lindholm, Professor Emeritus at NCHR, concluded the program with his remarks.

The HRRC also discussed the findings of the study with Master students of the Human Rights program of the University of Oslo the following day on 13 March. The launch in Oslo marks the start of the roadshow HRRC will be conducting together with partner universities to encourage discussion of the report. News on the next discussion forums will follow.

“Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion in ASEAN,” was funded by the Norwegian Embassy in Indonesia. The HRRC receives continuous support from the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice and the University of Indonesia.