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Preventing Violence, Promoting Freedom of Belief

Civil Society Organizations in the UK Join Attend Conference

In early July, a dozen independent civil society organizations in the UK joined forces to convene a conference that focused on the questions: Why does Gender Matter? and How are Women & Youth Leading Interfaith Peace building Efforts?” The Wheatley Institution had a small role in the conference by providing staff support.

Additional support came from the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) at the BYU Law School, which sponsored the first day’s events. These sessions convened an impressive cast of contributors, from members of Parliament and religious leaders to legal scholars. Among the highlights:

    • Cole Durham, president of the G20 Interfaith Forum, reminded attendees that protecting religion generates gratitude, a social by-product that serves to protect civil society.
    • Baroness Helena Kennedy, a Labour Peer, warned that we are seeing “repeats of history” and that the “othering” of minorities should signal that danger is imminent and a “monitoring mechanism” is needed to prevent violent outcomes.
    • Marcus Cole, Dean of Notre Dame Law School, spoke about their Religious Liberty Initiative headed by Stephanie Barclay, a graduate of and former faculty member at the BYU Law School. He touted his Law School’s 100 percent success rate in arguing religious freedom cases before the United States Supreme Court.  His message: “If you are fighting religious freedom, I want you to know that Notre Dame Law School will make you pay for it.”
    • Elder Quentin L. Cook, a former lawyer and an Apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recalled Roman Catholics being granted religious freedom in Great Britain less than a decade before the first Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived and  benefited from that legislation, showing how protections of religious freedom ripple outward. He also pointed out the ways religion is key to the maintenance of democracy.
    • Brett Scharffs, Director of ICLRS, explained how the Center is working to de-politicize human rights and religious freedom. Consistent with the Center’s focus on Human Dignity, he announced new initiatives focused on human dignity in the Islamic and Chinese traditions.

    The second day featured over 25 delegates, largely women and youth from around the world, who came to share their commitment to religious freedom and human rights, and to seek for solutions to the problems that confront women throughout the world today. They spoke on a wide range of issues, including education, climate and conflict, city planning, and the link between religious rights and women’s rights.

    Elder Alan T. Philips, Second Counsellor in the Europe North Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave closing remarks on the need to ensure that all people are seen and heard. He emphasized that all are part of the same human family and that changes are needed now to end violations of human dignity. He was confident in anticipating a time when no human being is seen as less, when human dignity would be recognized for and by everyone.