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Web-conference on Covid-19 and Freedom of Religion or Belief

The Danish Government's Forum for Freedom of Religion or Belief held the fifth meeting 29 May 2020. The topic of the meeting was Covid-19 and its impact on religious and faith-based actors and the promotion of the right to freedom of religion or belief. The meeting was held as a webinar with 80+ participants. The meeting was divided into three sessions with five panelists in the first two sessions. In the last session the Minister of Development Cooperation Rasmus Prehn payed a visit and gave a speech followed by a Q&A-session. 

The Minister of Development Cooperation had a strong message of the need to show our worth. "Let us strengthen education and cooperation and the duty to help each other across thought and faith, so we together can prevent new genocides". The bishops' "pastoral letter from the occupation is our indicator" (NB translated from Danish). 

The following can be mentioned from the panelists' presentations: The UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB, Ahmed Shaheed, pointed out a number of concrete examples on how Covid-19 has contributed to violate the right to freedom of religion or belief globally. Professor Katherine Marshall considered that faith-based actors had unique possibilities to use interreligious cooperation to promote the respect of others, such as engaging specifically women and young people. Respect could also be promoted through the effort of keeping the authorities responsible to the fight against corruption regarding the implementation of big financial aid packages in Africa and vulnerable regions other places. President of the Danish Humanist Society, Lone Ree Milkær, told about the imprisonment of the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, by the Nigerian authorities. This was just one of the many and more frequent examples of violations against atheists all over the world. Jørgen Thomsen and Filip Buff emphasised the increased value of faith-based organisations through high trust in the local community and how faith-based organisations often are better at contributing to the psychological-social stabilising during Covid-19 due to their "comprehensive packages". Thomsen highlighted good examples of cooperation between Muslims and Christians in Uganda, and the need thereof. Buff emphasised online learning of rights, including FoRB, as important tools. 

The speech by the Minister for Development Cooperation, Rasmus Prehn, can be read here.

The webinar can be seen here:



Programme for the web-konference in the Danish Forum for Freedom of Religion or Belief on Covid-19 and Freedom of Religion or Belief May 29, 2020

10:00             Opening by Ambassador Michael Suhr

10:05             Session I: Problems for faith minorities and freedom of thought, conscience and religion during the Covid-19 crisis

  • Ahmed Shaheed,UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB: Freedom of religion or belief in the context of COVID19 and its consequences
  • Lone Ree Milkær, President of the Danish Humanist Society: Freedom of belief in Nigeria before and during COVID19

    10h30            Session II: Roles, possibilities and problems for Faith Based Organizations and Actors during COVID19 in helping people in need and indirectly promoting respect for freedom of religion or belief

  • Katherine Marshall, Professor of Religion and Foreign Policy, Georgetown University, US: The role(s) of religious actors in countering COVID19 and its consequences: Lessons learned from previous pandemics and lessons so far
  • Jørgen Thomsen, Chief Advisor on religion and development at DanChurchAid: Challenges and opportunities during COVID19 for FBA and FBO helping all faith groups and promoting mutual respect
  • Filip Buff, Chief Advisor at Danish Mission Councils Development Agency: How to promote freedom of thought, consciousness and religion during COVID19 – possibilities how and where to focus

11:00              Session III: (in Danish)

  • Minister for Development Cooperation Rasmus Prehn: Protecting minorities and promoting freedom of thought and religion during COVID19 and beyond.
  • Q/A

11:30             End