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Saturday, 21 June 2014

Protecting Religious Freedom for all in the Asean Region: Implications for Malaysia

Asean with ten member countries and with over 600 million people is rich is cultural, linguistic, religious and ethnic diversity. It has great economic potential and is experiencing economic growth and social advancement.

At the same time Asean faces many challenges in addressing poverty and inequality as well as religious and ethnic conflicts especially between majority communities verses the minorities for example among Muslim minorities and Buddhist majorities in Myanmar, Thailand and Christians in Philippines. In counties like Indonesia and Malaysia it is other minorities in the midst of Muslim majorities.
We see within Asean both good examples as well as situations of conflict and potential conflict. There is therefore a need for developing guidelines and benchmarks relevant for Asean.

The Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) together with the Indonesian representative to The Asean Human Rights Commission, HE Rafendi Djamin have developed an Asean level set of community guidelines entitled “How to promote and protect the Freedom of Religion or belief in Asean Region? Overview on Implementation of the Freedom of Thought, conscience, and Religion in Asean Human Rights Declaration (AHRD)”
This is a valuable and useful document which has relevance and application to all of the Asean countries. HRWG hosted a two day an Asean regional level consultation in Jakarta on Feb 19 & 20, 2014. The document was well received and updated. It is now being circulated within Asean countries for review and input so as to receive feedback on relevance and applicability.

It is in this context that the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) and the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) is hosting a Consultation on Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief in the Asean Region to be held on July 2 & 3, 2014
We have secured the support of the Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and the EU as co organisers for this consultation.

The Opening ceremony of the Consultation & a Buka Puasa function will be held on July 2, 2014  (Wed) evening at East Inn Hotel with Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, National Unity Minister as chief guest.
The full day consultation will take place on July 3, 2014 at the GMM Conference Room.

Academic Prof Dr Harry Harun Behr (from the German Islamic Conference) has confirmed participating and speaking in the final session on Inter religious dialogue and mediation.  

A number of Asean level resource persons have confirmed participating namely Ms Yuyun Wahyuniungrum and Mr Muhammad Hafiz from HRWG Indonesia. Also joining us is Mr Myo Win of the Smile Education & Development Foundation working among the Rohingyas from Myanmar.
Confirmed local speakers include Dr Chandra Muzaffar (JUST), Tan Sri Michael Yeoh (ASLI), Ms Ratna Osman (SIS), Datuk Hj Zainal Abidin (NUCC), Mr Andrew Khoo (Bar Council), Associate Prof Dr Raihanah Abdullah (OIC), Dr Ahmad Farouk(IRF), Ms Zainah Anwar (Musawah), Mr Sadar Jagir Singh (MCCBCHST), Datuk Vaithilingam (Proham), Ms Loh Pai Ling (Buddhist Society), Dr Daniel Ho (DUMC), Yb Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa (NUCC), Datuk Kuthubul Zaman (Proham), Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir (NUCC) & Prof Suresh Kumah (Inter-faith Friendship Group).

Malaysian society today is being torn apart due to the inability of both political and religious leaders to sit down and discuss these issues and concerns in an environment of mutual respect and trust. Different organisations are championing their respective religious positions and are further polarising the situation. This is further complicated with public institutions failing to play a mediating role. Politicians in public positions at the state and federal levels are not able to foster bipartisan  working relationships for the greater good of the nation.
We need bridge- builders both in Asean and Malaysia to build the Asean community. Our prayer is that this Consultation will sow seeds for harmony, peace and community living in Asean with a specific focus on Malaysia.

The Consultation will be moderated jointly by Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria. This is a closed door event but both GMM and Proham will issue a statement on the emerging issues, concerns and solutions to strengthen Religious Freedom in Asean
Those wanting a copy of the Draft Guidelines can request: Also for updates please review:

Statement issued by:

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (CEO, GMM) &
Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Proham Secretary General)
June 22, 2014

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