Hubs

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WEST AFRICA

Due to Covid 19 the majority of FoRBLN activities have migrated on-line.

 

The Gambia

Following up on discussions and meetings over the last years the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA) undertook a mission to The Gambia to meet with key FoRB stakeholders to hear about their ideas and priorities in protecting and sustaining FoRB in their country. The objectives of the mission were to follow up on previous scoping visits, discuss the idea of the FoRBLN, build trust and support and lay the foundations for a future network meeting. The visit also took the opportunity to reconnect with AfriPAHR members and look at ways to build on this network too.
Meetings were held in February 2021 with various faith group representatives as well as parliamentarians and human rights groups. This included meetings with The Gambia Christian Council, the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council and the National Human Rights Commission. The ACEPA delegation also met with members of the Gambia Teachers Union to discuss the idea of a FoRB themed photo competition for school children. Initial meetings were held in Parliament, facilitated by the Clerk’s office and attended by five parliamentarians and parliamentary staff.
There was broad support for the idea of establishing a FoRB leadership network in The Gambia. The consensus was that although the country has enjoyed great religious tolerance historically there might be emerging ‘fault lines’ and issues that can be tackled by working together. The drafting of the new constitution and debate about secularism and religion were key topics for discussion during the visit to The Gambia. It was felt that the FoRBLN initiative will therefore help to create the space for knowledge sharing and problem solving thus ensuring minorities can freely practice their religion or beliefs. There were also positive responses to the idea of forming a new FoRB caucus in parliament.

 

 

Sierra Leone

Following up on discussions and meetings over the last years the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA) undertook a mission to Sierra Leone to meet with key FoRB stakeholders to hear about their ideas and priorities in protecting and sustaining FoRB in their country.  The objectives of the mission were to follow up on previous scoping visits, discuss the idea of the FoRBLN, build trust and support and lay the foundations for a future network meeting.  The visit also took the opportunity to reconnect with AfriPAHR members and look at ways to build on this network too.

During a visit to Sierra Leone in February 2021 the ACEPA delegation and a representative from AfriPAHR held exploratory discussions with the Inter Religious Council Sierra Leone (IRCSL),  the Rastafarian Movement, Members of Parliaments and staff as well as the opposition leader, the Chair of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone and deputies and the Executive Secretary of Human Rights Defenders Network-SL among others.

The meeting with the IRCSL began with a welcome from His Grace, Archbishop Tamba Charles, the president of IRCSL to the ACEPA team.  It was noted that even though Sierra Leone is a country that exhibits religious tolerance religious dialogue could be enlarged through the establishment of a FoRB network.

These consultations enabled the inclusion of the Rastafarian Council with other more traditional belief groups.  There was felt that there is a lot of potential for faith leaders working in cooperation with parliamentarians on vital FoRB issues.  There were also a meeting attended by members of parliament and the Director of the Department of Parliamentary Assistance and Cooperation as well as a consultation with the official opposition representative.  Stakeholders felt that working to build support for the idea of and then establishing a parliamentary caucus would be a useful next step.

In a meeting with a team from the Human Rights Commission it was emphasised that there is tolerance between the two main religions in the country. It was felt that there was more scope for the inclusion and recognition of other minority belief groups. The Human Rights Defenders group was also consulted and it was noted that there existed some cultural and belief practices, such as FGM, that were harmful for girls and women as well as other human rights issues for the LGBT community.

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EAST AFRICA

Due to Covid-19 most of our activities in East Africa have migrated on-line.

Malawi

Following up on discussions and meetings over the last years the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA) was able to remotely organise a face to face meeting of  Malawi FoRB stakeholders to hear about their ideas and priorities in protecting and sustaining FoRB in their country.  The objectives of the mission were to follow up on previous scoping visits, discuss the idea of the FoRBLN, build trust and support and lay the foundations for a future network meeting.

Even though ACEPA could not go to Malawi as planned, a virtual meeting was organised on the 30th March, 2021 with members of parliament and faith leaders.  There were twenty members of parliament, three faith leaders and four supporting staff from parliament.

There was general enthusiasm and eagerness to discuss the idea of a leadership network dedicated to FoRB and its relevance for Malawi.  Topics of discussion included the rise of religious extremism in the region and the place of minority groups in society, such as the Rastafarians.

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SOUTH ASIA

 

Due to Covid-19 most of our activities in South Asia have migrarted on-line.

Virtual meetings have taken place in Pakistan with FoRB stakeholders, where there is emerging agreement on a forging of a Pakistan FoRB leadership network. Also in Pakistan, network members produced a statement marking the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Shabaz Bhatti. In Pakistan there are very active WhatsApp and Zoom  communications, while a WhatsApp group has been established in Bangladesh and is opening up conversations between members. In Bangladesh, FoRBLN is looking to coordinate and involve in its activities the South Asia FoRB Forum, a civil society platform on FoRB involving faith-based organisations.