World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 

Inter-Religious Cooperation to Rebuild Sierra Leone

Inter-Religious Cooperation Can Be Vital Asset for Rebuilding Sierra Leone -- UN Expert

New York, Jul 5 2013 - Sierra Leone's religious communities have a crucial role to play in helping to overcome the legacy of war, an independent United Nations human rights expert stated today, adding that cooperation between them will be an asset in the process of rebuilding and reconciliation.

"Religious diversity is not only a reality in Sierra Leone; it is widely seen and cherished as an asset on which to build community life from the local to the national level," said the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt.

"Before coming to Sierra Leone I expected to see a country characterized by a high degree of religious tolerance. What I have experienced here by far exceeds this expectation," the expert stated, as he wrapped up his first official visit. "All interlocutors, without exception, agreed that religious communities, in particular Muslims and Christians, live peacefully and harmoniously side-by-side."

He said the climate of religious tolerance in Sierra Leone is all the more "astounding" against the background of the country's tragic civil war. "While ethnic, regional and other differences -- whether real or merely imagined -- became factors of political fragmentation and violent escalation, religion was never drawn into the conflict."

Sierra Leone was torn by a civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002, and was often punctuated by acts of extreme brutality as marauding bands of armed youths terrorized the countryside, conscripting child soldiers and used the amputation of limbs to intimidate civilians.

"In all attempts to further develop the country, religious communities can -- and do -- play a crucial role," said Mr. Bielefeldt, who briefed reporters in the capital, Freetown. "The unusual degree of interreligious tolerance and cooperation remains a great asset for rebuilding and developing the nation -- also beyond the reconciliation process."

He recalled that a Christian person remarked that when the church is overcrowded he might well decide to go to a mosque to pray. "Such a statement, which in many countries would be fairly unusual or even unthinkable, seems rather indicative of the tolerant situation in Sierra Leone," he stated. "Likewise, Muslims told me they have no difficulty to pray in a Christian church."

Mr. Bielefeldt noted that people in Sierra Leone can freely change their religious affiliation. "Conversions are a common phenomenon and can go into all directions," he said.

"Religious pluralism in Sierra Leone is a dynamic pluralism in the sense that religious communities can grow and develop," he added. "People generally do not encounter problems when bearing witness to their faith in private or in public and they can also invite others freely to join their community."

Commending the high degree of religious tolerance enjoyed by Sierra Leoneans, he added that it should not be taken for granted.

"In the face of religious mistrust, hostility and hatred in many parts of the world, it is obvious that a climate of cross-denominational openheartedness and cooperation, as it exists in Sierra Leone, requires broad commitment and active investments," he stated.

"It is a precious accomplishment that deserves to be cherished and further developed. Obviously, societal and State institutions play an indispensable role in this ongoing endeavour."

During his six-day visit, the Special Rapporteur met with a wide range of relevant Government officials and agencies, as well as representatives of religious or belief communities and civil society organizations in Freetown and Moyamba.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. Mr. Bielefeldt will present a report containing his conclusions and recommendations to the Council in 2014.

For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Pacific: Tongan PM 'Akilisi Pohiva Dies, Aged 78

A constant thorn in the side of the monarchy and nobility, Mr Pohiva's lifelong battle for representation had seen him fired from the public service and charged with sedition... More>>

ALSO:

Untied Kingdom: UK PM Moves To Suspend Parliament In Weeks Before Brexit

The Prime Minister has briefed Cabinet colleagues that the government will bring forward an ambitious new legislative programme for MPs’ approval, and that the current parliamentary session will be brought to an end. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Hong Kong Protest Movement

The pro-democracy protests enjoy huge support among Hong Kong’s youth, partly because the democratic systems currently at risk have only a limited time span. More>>

ALSO:

Pacific Island Forum: Australia v Everyone Else On Climate Action

Traditionally, communiques capture the consensus reached at the meeting. In this case, the division on display between Australia and the Pacific meant the only commitment is to commission yet another report into what action needs to be taken. More>>

ALSO:

For NZ, It Was May 6: Earth Overshoot Day 2019 Is The Earliest Ever

Humanity is currently using nature 1.75 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.75 Earths... More>>

ALSO: