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Promoting freedom of belief and challenging religious discrimination in Transition States

Duration: 2012 to 2014

Countries: Iraq and Pakistan


What was this programme about?

Iraq and Pakistan constitute two of the world’s most challenging contexts for securing freedom of religion.

Although the situation in each of the countries is very different, they share a number of common factors. Political transition, though offering opportunities for democratization, has been accompanied in each case by a decline in freedom of religion or belief. Religious minorities are particularly vulnerable in the two countries.

Religious minorities are specifically targeted for their beliefs and at the same time the discrimination and/or persecution they experience greatly compromises their freedom of religion. Furthermore a culture of impunity exists with regard to human rights abuses.

Nevertheless, significant opportunities exist to improve relations between communities. Civil society is vibrant and active in all two countries, and there are a number of initiatives that aim to improve coexistence. MRG worked to compliment and learn from these projects.

What did we aim to achieve?

This programme promoted freedom of religion and pluralism in Iraq and Pakistan. We aimed to challenge discrimination against religious minorities and empower communities to effectively advocate for implementation of their human rights, including their freedom of religion and belief, at local, national and regional levels, and to take action to promote better relations between religious communities.

What did we do?

  • Implement national networking and coalition-building training events in each country for religious minorities, human rights activists and journalists to strengthen collaboration and develop advocacy strategies;
  • Deliver an online training course to strengthen the capacity of activists and journalists;
  • Raise awareness of the challenges faced by religious minorities via media campaigns, research, reports, roundtable events and a film;
  • Implement activities through civil society organisations to promote better relations between communities.

Who were our partners?

Our partners were:

  • The Iraqi Minorities Council (IMC) is a not-for-profit civil society organization established in 2005 as a registered Non-Governmental Organization in Iraq. IMC defends all minorities’ rights, based on democracy, freedom, equality, brotherhood, social justice, cohabitation of citizens and prosperity. The members of IMC are independent volunteers from communities including Turkmen, Kurd Faili, Christians (including Chaldeans, Syriacs and Assyrians), Christian Armenians, Shabaks, Yezidis and Sabean Mandaeans. IMC also works with Bahá’í, Kawliyah (Roma), Black Iraqis, Kaka’i, and Palestinians.
  • The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) was founded in 1992 and since then has built up a reputation as a key human rights and development NGO in Pakistan. They currently run numerous programmes relating to sustainable development and are a source of authoritative research on issues in the field. They have links with international development think-tanks in the North. They also have a cohort of staff highly skilled in issue of human rights particularly in relation to religious freedoms in Pakistan. They have published widely on religious bias in the education curricula, and carried out advocacy to bring about positive change. They have extensive networks amongst religious minorities in Pakistan as well as amongst the media and are using both these to maximise the impact of our current programme on religious freedoms.

Who funded this programme?

This programme was funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

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