"Promoting the Non-Discrimination and Protection of Human Rights of
Religious Minorities, Refugees and Migrants in Ultra-Nationalist Contexts"
Video Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
29 April 2019
I welcome this gathering. Human rights are closely connected to religion, security and peace. Religious leaders play a crucial role in either defending human rights, peace and security – or, unfortunately, in undermining them. Supporting the positive contributions of faith-based actors is crucial, as is preventing the exploitation of religious faith as a tool in conflicts, or as interpreted to deny people’s rights.
Human rights and faith can be mutually supportive. Indeed, many people of faith have worked at the heart of the human rights movement, precisely because of their deep attachment to respect for human dignity, human equality, and justice. I am convinced that faith-based actors can promote trust and respect between communities. And I am committed to assisting governments, religious authorities and civil society actors to work jointly to uphold human dignity and equality for all.
In recent years, my Office has been working with faith-based actors to conceive the ‘Faith for Rights’ framework. Its 18 commitments reach out to people of different religions and beliefs in all regions of the world, to promote a common, action-oriented platform.
The ‘Faith for Rights’ framework includes a commitment not to tolerate exclusionary interpretations, which instrumentalize religions, beliefs or their followers for electoral purposes or political gains. In this context, it is vital to protect religious minorities, refugees and migrants, particularly where they have been targeted by incitement to hatred and violence.
We look forward to seeing the Faith for Rights framework translated into practical outreach tools and capacity-building programmes. Already, it has been picked up by a number of communities. For example, the 18 commitments have been translated into Greek and Turkish in the context of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process, to be used in human rights education projects across the island.
Respect for human rights shapes societies that are more peaceful, more resilient, more sustainably developed – more successful, across a whole range of metrics. School by school and town by town, local success stories can inspire positive changes elsewhere in the world.
We hope the Faith for Rights framework will also inspire interdisciplinary research on questions related to faith and rights. Deeper exploration of the ethical and spiritual foundations provided by religions and beliefs can help to debunk the myth that human rights are solely Western values. On the contrary: the human rights agenda is rooted in cultures across the world. Respect for human life, and human dignity, wellbeing and justice, are common to us all.
'Faith' can indeed stand up for ‘Rights’ so that both enhance each other. As the 'Faith for Rights' framework proclaims, "We are resolved to challenge the manipulation of religions in both politics and conflicts. We intend to be a balancing united voice of solidarity, reason, compassion, moderation, enlightenment and corresponding collective action". I look forward to your progress towards these goals.