A Taiwan Declaration for Religious Freedom was announced yesterday following an international conference in Taipei attended by activists, legislators, government representatives and religious leaders from around the world.
Participants in the Asia-Pacific Religious Freedom Forum swelled a Legislative Yuan auditorium as they stood for the reading of the declaration by Freedom House president Mark Lagon.
The declaration said that freedom of thought, conscience and religion was an inalienable human right and called for the review of any laws limiting freedom of conscience and expression.
Delegates promised to work to protect the rights of religious minorities while publicaly condemning any acts of intolerance, discrimination, persecution or violence perpetuated in the name of religion.
“I think it will be a roadmap for those who are from restricted nations,” said China Aid president Bob Fu (傅希秋), whose organization jointly hosted the forum along with former vice president Annette Lu’s (呂秀蓮) Democratic Pacific Union.
The three-day event is set to conclude today and has been attended by advocates, politicians and religious leaders from 26 nations.
Fu called the forum a “platform” to allow networking between advocates in free and restricted nations, calling the resulting declaration “a covenant for us to stick together until true religious freedom is fully realized in every corner of the Asia-Pacific region.”
The Democratic Pacific Union had been instrumental in raising support for the forum and helping to facilitate participant visas, he said, adding that as a forum Taiwan underscored the need for China to open further.
“China is one of the worst persecutors, and I think it is such a contrast that freedom can be realized here in a similar culture, so China has no excuse,” Fu said, adding it was “regretful” that representatives of Tibetan Buddhists and Xinjiang Muslims had been unable to attend after being “discouraged” by the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
The Reverend Bernard Munono Muyembe, an official of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said that protecting religious freedom in the region was particularly important.
“It is imperative to assure that in Asia – in the Pacific and elsewhere — every human being, regardless of social origin, race, language and culture, has their humanity and inalienable dignity respected, which includes an inherent right to freely choose their religion, to profess it and to worship individually and in community with others who share the same faith, without being subjected to discriminatory treatment as a second class citizen,” he said.
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