Parliamentarians and senior religious leaders from 11 Commonwealth countries gathered at Lambeth Palace, the London official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, for two days of discussions on freedom of religion or belief.
Bishop of Coventry Christopher Cocksworth chaired the gathering, which was part of the parallel program of events running alongside the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), one of the world’s largest international summits, bringing together leaders of 53 independent nations. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in partnership with the Commonwealth Initiative on Freedom of Religion or Belief project director, Baroness Berridge, convened the gathering.
“The discussions at Lambeth Palace were attended by 40 senior religious leaders, parliamentarians and academics from 11 Commonwealth countries,” Lambeth Palace said in a statement. “The theme was ‘majority and minority in context.’ ”
Participants heard of the importance of the international legal framework for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB)—and the need for faith communities and governments to engage with it more consistently. It was highlighted that faith communities must advocate the same global standards on religious freedom regardless of whether they are the majority or the minority in the country, and that governments must abide by international standards on FoRB.
The meeting was held under the Chatham House rule, named after the international think tank. Under the rule, participants are able to report what they heard at the meeting; but not in a way that will explicitly or implicitly identify the source of that information.
Lambeth Palace said that participants at the discussion “noted that religious freedom is a deep tradition and rich heritage of the countries of the Commonwealth, but one that cannot be taken for granted.” One unnamed participant was quoted as saying that the tradition of tolerance and liberty is “a common wealth that needs to be cherished, celebrated and continuously cultivated.”