Parliamentarians and senior religious leaders from 11 Commonwealth countries gathered at Lambeth Palace, the London official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for two-days of discussions on freedom of religion or belief. The gathering was chaired by the Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth, and was part of the parallel programme of events running alongside the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), one of the world’s largest international summits, bringing together the leaders of 53 independent nations. The event was convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in partnership with the Commonwealth Initiative on Freedom of Religion or Belief project director, Baroness Berridge.
“The discussions at Lambeth Palace were attended by 40 senior religious leaders, parliamentarians and academics from 11 Commonwealth countries,” Lambeth Palace said in a statement. “The theme was ‘Majority and minority in context’”.
Participants heard of the importance of the international legal framework for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) – and the need for faith communities and governments to engage with it more consistently was also stressed. It was highlighted that faith communities must advocate the same global standards on religious freedom when they are the majority in one country as when they are a minority in another country, and governments must abide by international standards on FoRB.
The meeting was held under the Chatham House rule, named after the international think tank. Under the rule, participants are able to report what they heard at the meeting; but not in a way that will explicitly or implicitly indentify the source of that information.
Lambeth Palace said that participants at the discussion “noted that religious freedom is a deep tradition and rich heritage of the countries of the Commonwealth, but one that cannot be taken for granted.” One un-named participant was quoted as saying that the tradition of tolerance and liberty is “a Common Wealth that needs to be cherished, celebrated and continuously cultivated”.