Delegates from Bangladesh include - Shahidul Alam, social activist and managing director of DRIK Gallery, Father Tapan Rozario, associate professor of world religions and culture department at Dhaka University and Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation.

The overarching themes of the conference are preventing FoRB abuses and protecting and promoting freedom of religion or belief.

The conference is featuring a number of sessions, including on the role of education in promoting a better understanding and the discrimination or abuse of women and girls as a result of their beliefs.

The conference brings together faith and belief leaders, governments, parliamentarians, and civil society organisations from 100 countries to take global action to promote freedom of religion or belief for all.

Speaking in advance of the conference, Lord Ahmad, UK government minister for South Asia, North Africa, the United Nations and the Commonwealth, said he is delighted that the UK is hosting the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in London.

“Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’. Put simply, Freedom of Religion or Belief – or FoRB for short – is a right for everyone, everywhere,” he said.

However, he said, in practice too many people around the world are unable to choose their religion or belief, how they practice it, or to change that belief if they so wish.

“It is vital that the international community comes together and does everything it can to safeguard this right,” Ahmad said.

He said they have over 600 delegates from 100 countries and multilateral organisations around the world attending the conference including faith and belief leaders, government delegations and civil society representatives.

This is the first International Ministerial Conference on this theme to take place in person since 2019, and the host wants to use the moment to turn words into action.

“Participants include the Most Rev and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Islamic Scholar Sheikh Abdallah Bin-bayyah, and Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Catholic church in Erbil, Iraq. It will be an incredibly diverse gathering, reflecting interest from across the religion and belief spectrum, government and civil society in this important issue,” he said.

“I look forward to discussing how we can best prevent persecution and protect and promote individuals’ right to freedom of religion or belief.”

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