Working to promote freedom of conscience for every person, no matter who they are or where they live.

Religion and Nationalism: Board of Experts Examines Conflicts and Concerns

News September 2006

Aix-en-Provence, France… Experts from the International Religious Liberty Association met September 11 through 13 to tackle the ongoing threat to religious freedom posed by nationalism.

"More and more, nationalism poses a challenge to the free exercise of religion and liberty of conscience," comments Dr. John Graz, secretary general of the IRLA. "When religious identity is confused with national identity, which frequently happens in countries with a majority religion, those of other beliefs are marginalized and even persecuted. Even in secular countries, nationalism can badly affect those who wish to practice their faith in accordance with their convictions, with devastating effects for those concerned. We are meeting to try to develop processes that will help all those involved to understand the limits of nationalism and the vital importance of freedom of religion or belief."

The conference meeting, held in conjunction with the Faculty of Law in the Paul Cezanne University of Aix-en-Provence, France, brought together top-level experts from academia and civil society. These included professors from prestigious universities in France, Spain, Italy and the USA, as well as the former Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, a government official from Argentina, a representative from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and a former judge from the French Constitutional Court.

"We were delighted to host this extremely important meeting here at the Faculty of law," says Blandine Chelini-Pont, professor and conference organizer. "These are vital issues in today's world, and we need to address them effectively. Our hope is that the eventual outcome document will be of great use for government leaders, United Nations officials, and civil society stakeholders."

The IRLA Board of Experts meets annually and has developed well-received guidelines on proselytism, on security and religious freedom, and on the issue of religious symbols in the public sphere. [IRLA News]

IRLA Board of Experts in session

Dean of the Faculty of Law, Marc Pena, (L) addresses the Board of Experts

Faculty of Law, Universite Paul Cezanne, Aix-en-Provence, France