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Organization: International Association for Religious Freedom
The following information may be cited or quoted as long as the source is accurately mentioned and the words are not taken out of context.
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PROGRESS: Has your organization seen progress toward a culture of peace and nonviolence in your domain of action and in your constituency during the first half of the Decade?

Building on 105 years of inter-religious activity, IARF has, in the last 5 years, become more active at the UN and has facilitated engagement in and follow up of the 2001 UN Consultative Conference in Madrid on School Education in Relation with Freedom of Religion or Belief, Tolerance and Non-Discrimination"; IARF has organized in 2002 to 2004 four workshops on four continents to promote teaching of tolerance as recommended from Madrid. IARF has also helped to revive the NGO Committee for Freedom of Religion or Belief (Geneva) and serves as secretary to the committee as well as being elected to the Board of CONGO (Conference of NGOs in Consultative Staus with ECOSOC). In the field the young adult programme of IARF has engaged in rehabilitation work with Muslims and Hindus in Gujarat, India, in work with indigenous peoples in the Philippines, in network-building in Eastern and Central Europe, etc.

OBSTACLES: What are the most important obstacles that have prevented progress?

While most national groups are self-sufficient funding is needed for projects in developing countries; we have been fortunate to receive funding from Japanese Buddhists for the education for tolerance programme, from an American foundation for preparing an "Affirmation of Religious Freedom and Responsibility"  and from the Netherlands government for preparation of audio-visual teaching materials for human rights education. Continuing or matching such funding is a perpetual anxiety.

ACTIONS: What actions have been undertaken by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the first half of the Decade?

Some actions have alraedy been referred to above, notably the varied activities of young adults within situations of conflict and tension such as Gujarat where the confidence building of helping both Muslim and Hindu vilagers in the aftermath of the earthquake provided a "preventive" climate when communal riots broke out and spared the area where IARF had worked. More information on the Young Adult Network from ramola@iarf.net

The workshops in Geneva with Muslims and Christians, in Bangalore with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and others from India and Sri Lanka, in South Africa with teachers and others working on African traditional values, and in Costa Rica with indigenous teachers working in indigenous communities and spreading their values more widely, all contributed to ongoing disussion and syllabus preparation along the lines advocated by the UN Madrid Conference on teaching of tolerance.

The current preparation of videos illustrating young people in conflict mediation and community building across religious and cultural barriers is a further attempt to demonstrate and disseminate an awareness of the relevance of creating conditions of respect and understanding among sometimes alienated religious communities as a highly useful contribution in creating a culture of peace.

The "Affirmation of Religious Freedom and Responsibility" (affirmation@iarf.net) is designed not only to respect and claim the universally recognized right to freedom of religion or belief, but also to accept the consequent responsibilities for leaders and members of religious and belief-based communities (some secular or humanist) to respect the rights of others and to ensure that no freedoms are abused within their own communities.

Representatives of IARF in New York and Geneva have taken leadership in the NGO Committees on Freedom of Religion or Belief. In the case of Geneva IARF was instrumental in reviving the committee with its cooperative style of working, for example in promoting joint statements with other NGOs on issues such as Freedom of Religion or Belief, and Human Rights Education. More information from echappee@bluewin.ch

IARF in Geneva has taken part in Peace Bell celebrations on 21 September and local groups have been reminded of the significance of this day.




ADVICE: What advice would you like to give to the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the second half of the Decade?

Close cooperation by the Decade should be promoted with the OHCHR Human Rights Education programme and with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (notably in explicit utilization of benchmarks set in 1981 Declaration on Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief as well as strategic implementation - possibly in cooperation with NGOs - of recommendations of 2001 Madrid Consultative Conference on "School Education in Relation with Freedom of Religion or Belief, Tolerance and Non-Discrimination")

PARTNERSHIPS: What partnerships and networks does your organization participate in, thus strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace?

CONGO (Conference of NGOs in Consultative Staus with ECOSOC) - elected Board member

NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief (New York) - member and former office holder

NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief (Geneva) - elected Secretary

International Interfaith Network, 2 Market St, Oxford, UK

PLANS: What new engagements are planned by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the second half of the Decade (2005-2010)?

All present programmes on-going...World Assembly in 2006 may confirm existing priorities or may set new directions...

Postal address of organization

2 Market St OXFORD OX1 3EF, UK

E-mail address of organization

hq@iarf.net

Website address of organization

www.iarf.net

Highest priority action domain of a culture of peace

Human Rights

Second priority action domain of a culture of peace

Understanding, tolerance, solidarity

Highest priority country of action (or international)

International

Second priority country of action (or international)

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Organization: International Association for Religious Freedom

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