The program for Freedom of Religion or Belief in Indonesia, Kenya and Pakistan was started by Mensen met een Missie in 2018 with the objective to contribute to peaceful co-existence. The program works at the grassroots and promotes interreligious cooperation for tolerance and respect for all religions and beliefs.
Tensions along religious lines
In recent years, tensions between different religious groups have been on the rise rather than declining in countries such as Indonesia, Kenya and Pakistan. Often it is not religion itself that leads to conflicts, discriminatory practises and exclusion, but political and economic factors that play a crucial role with religious difference often being exploited for votes. Another crucial influence has been the current global increase in radicalisation.
Promoting religious tolerance
The program focuses on the promotion of religious tolerance, on reducing discrimination of religious minorities, and radicalisation. The approach is interreligious, building strong interreligious relationships in addressing conflicts and social problems underlying these.
Intervention at three levels
The program centres on effecting change at a grassroots level: communities, local religious and informal leaders, teachers, women and youth are equipped to address discrimination and radicalisation in their communities, and to build relationships between different religious communities for cooperation in tackling social issues.
Local authorities and government officials are strengthened and encouraged by communities and key leaders to take action against discrimination and to promote tolerance locally.
Consecutively, communities and local governments will bring these local issues to the attention of policymakers at national and international levels. This enables the implementation of laws that safeguard freedom of religion and promote tolerance.
Within this program, every country has its own specific strategies and intervention priorities, which respond to the specific drivers of interreligious intolerance identified in that context. For example the program in Pakistan focuses on improving the educational system, whereas the program in Indonesia works on addressing hate speech in the social media.
The program in Pakistan is aimed at changing the education curriculum in order to advance tolerance and respect for diversity in the educational system, whereby teachers and communities are also trained in order to implement unbiased education.
The program in Indonesia focuses on countering hate-speech which is being spread through social media, by means of building an alternative narrative of tolerance and diversity and communicating these messages to youth and society as a whole.
The program in Kenya is aimed at capacitating youth, women and religious leaders from different religious communities in the coastal region, particularly in areas prone to poverty and vulnerable to radicalisation. Youth are trained to better understand the context of intolerance as well as each other, and supported to cooperate across faiths to tackle common issues with local authorities.
Years of experience and relationships
The Freedom of Religion or Belief program builds on to the long experience of Mensen met een Missie in the three countries, the networks and partnerships and expertise in the field of interreligious dialogue and peacebuilding.
The program will be implemented over 4 years until 2021, and is supported by the Human Rights Fund of the Royal Nederlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.