Learning center

Freedom of religion or belief

Freedom of religion or belief is a human right. It gives people the right to have or change their religion or belief and to practice it through, for example, worship or teaching. It includes protection from coercion and from discrimination based on religion or belief.

Three quarters of the world’s population live in countries where the right is severely restricted by the state or with high levels of social hostilities, such as hate crimes, mob violence or religion related terrorism. People of all faiths and in all kinds of countries are affected. Peace, stability and democracy depend on a culture of freedom of religion or belief, in which people can accept equal rights for all – despite deep differences in their beliefs. At the Swedish Mission Council, we work to promote freedom of religion or belief for all. We work for the issue to be prioritised within Swedish and EU foreign policy and to increase civil servants’ understanding of the issues. We also provide capacity building support for member and partner organisations around the world. Together with other actors, we have developed a range of learning materials on what freedom of religion or belief involves and how you can work to promote it.
Films - the basics
Basic training package

These films and written resources provide a basic introduction to the human right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all. They explore what the right involves, when it can be limited and violations of the right around the world.

The resources can be used for self-study or with groups. They are ideal for integrating into training programmes or curricula on freedom of religion or belief or human rights in general. Facilitators can use them in training sessions, as preparatory ‘reading’ or to consolidate knowledge after trainings.

Target audiences: communities affected by violations, NGOs, civil servants, parliamentarians, students and anyone engaged in public debate or policy making on the issues.

The films are produced in collaboration with the Nordic Ecumenical Network on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, the World Council of Churches, the Centre for Islam and Religious Freedom, the World Evangelical Alliance and the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights.

 

Film 1: An introduction to freedom of religion or belief
Who or what is protected by freedom of religion or belief? What do international conventions say and what rights do they give us?
Length: 5:05 min


Film 2: The right to have, change or leave a religion or belief
Are governments, religious leaders or family members allowed to limit your right to have, change or leave your religion or belief? With examples from around the world.
Length: 7:50 min


Film 3: The right to manifest (practice) religion or belief
There are lots of ways to express and practice religion or belief. What is protected by human rights and what’s not? With examples of violations of the right to manifest from around the world.
Length: 8:07 min


Film 4: Protection from coercion
Coercion means being forced to say or do something. This film explores the government’s duty not to coerce in matters of religion or belief and to protect you from coercion in society. Examples from around the world illustrate the forms that coercion can take.
Length: 6:13 min


Film 5: Protection from discrimination
Discrimination on the basis of religion or belief is banned and states have a duty to protect people from discrimination in society. Examples from around the world illustrate the forms discrimination can take.
Length: 6:29 min


Film 6: Rights for parents and children
What rights do parents and children have? Examples from around the world illustrate how states violate children’s rights, and the balance between parents’ and children’s rights.
Length: 7:00 min


Film 7: The right to conscientious objection
Conscientious objection means refusing to do something you are required to do because it violates your conscience. This film introduces a complex and controversial dimension of freedom of religion or belief.
Length: 3:49 min


Film 8: Limitations
When is the state allowed to limit the right to manifest religion or belief and how can you assess if limitations that you encounter are legitimate or not? Using illustrative examples, this film takes you through the process human rights courts (should) use to decide if limitations are legitimate. This film is a resource for people affected by limitations. But also for students and anyone engaged in public debate and public policy.
Length: 20:28 min


Film 9: Freedom of religion or belief around the world – COMING SOON
This film looks at violations encountered by people of all faiths and none in all parts of the world. It highlights the impact of violations on personal lives and on the stability and development of societies. It is ideal for broadening perspectives.
Release: January 2018

lives in countries with high or very high levels of government restrictions on or social hostilities related to religion or belief.

The Pew Research Centre (2017)

to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Films - in more depth
Access to justice learning package

How can you find justice when rights are violated? This package of five short films focus on how we can use legal systems and institutional bodies to stop violations of freedom of religion or belief and find justice. Looking at the local, national, regional and global levels, their focus is on human rights as a law.

These films are ideal for groups or organisations affected by rights violations, as well as those wanting to better understand the human rights system.


Film 10: Access to justice: an introduction
This short introduction provides a basis for the other films in the series, highlighting how national and international levels relate to one another and building an understanding of human rights as ‘soft law’ in the international context.


Film 11: Access to justice at the local and national level
We should be able to find justice at the local and national levels when rights are violated – but how? This film looks at the role the law, police, courts and para-legal structures such as national human rights institutions can play in seeking access to justice.


Film 12: Access to justice at the regional level – COMING SOON
When national systems of justice don’t work we need to look for justice at the international level. Some regions of the world have regional human rights systems with regional treaties and courts – such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This film provides information about how you can relate to regional human rights systems.
Release: Spring 2018


Film 13: Access to justice at the global level
When national systems of justice don’t work we need to look for justice at the international level. This film guides you through the United Nations’ systems for monitoring and responding to human rights violations.


Film 14: Access to justice: the Universal Periodic Review
A more in depth look at how civil society organisations can use the UN Universal Periodic Review to highlight violations of human rights and promote change.


Working to promote freedom of religion or belief – COMING SOON
A series of films that provide training on how methods like awareness raising, advocacy and documenting violations can be used to promote freedom of religion or belief and other human rights. These films are ideal for groups or organisations who want to promote the right in their own context.
Release: 2018

For facilitators
Resources for facilitators

Welcome to use our selection of resources for group learning, reflection and discussion on FoRB, suitable for different target audiences.

If you want to organise a course or workshop on FoRB, you are free to make use of these exercises and methods that we use in our own courses, both in Sweden and other parts of the world.

The exercises can be used independently or in combination with the films that available above, on this page.

The Assumption game - Workshop exercise designed to make participants see and analyse their own prejudices.
Conventions & declarations compendium - This compendium provides an overview of key international and regional agreements and documents relating to FoRB.
Discussion on FoRB legitimate limitations - This compendium provides an overview of key international and regional agreements and documents relating to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).
Exploring the ICCPR through art - Workshop exercise to help participants explore UN human rights conventions by using their senses and different learning styles.
Human needs/Human Rights exercise - Workshop excercise to help participants make the connection between needs and rights. Designed to overcome prejudice that human rights are a Western concept.
The Interview game - Classic workshop ice-breaker that also helps participants to put themselves in the "shoes of the other".
Publications
Publications

Here you can find useful publications on FoRB produced by us and others, including our Quick Guide to Religious Freedom, available in a range of languages.

Our own material

Faith Freedom and change, SMC (2010) - Advocacy report on how FoRB can be integrated into Swedish foreign policy

Recommended reading

Stefanus FoRB Booklet (2012) - A useful and attractive booklet introducing freedom of religion or belief as a human right, published by Stefanus Alliance International
Stefanus FoRB Booklet (2012) - A useful and attractive booklet introducing freedom of religion or belief as a human right, published by Stefanus Alliance International
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