Bahrain hosts global meet on freedom of religion, belief

Written by Nayla Barakat


Manama, May 30 (BNA) A conference was opened in Manama on enhancing humanitarian cooperation on the principles of pluralism and diversity to enhance respect for freedom of religion and belief at the regional and global levels.


The first conference between the European Union and Bahrain on freedom of religion and belief is being held under the auspices of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Under the title “Expanding the Tent: Freedom of Religion and Belief”, the Kingdom of Bahrain, in cooperation with the European Union, is organizing the three-day event.


The exhibition, which is being held on the sidelines of the conference, was inaugurated by Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif Al-Zayani, in the presence of officials, heads of various institutions, diplomats and many civil society institutions.


Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of “This Is Bahrain” and First Vice President of the King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence, Betsy Matheson, in her statements thanked His Majesty the King for sponsoring this event.


She also thanked His Highness the Crown Prince and Prime Minister Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa for his distinguished support, inspiring guidance and dedicated support.


She said it was surprising that many houses of worship were not only the first to be erected in Bahrain but were the first of their kind in the entire Arabian Peninsula.


I wondered why Bahrain has advanced so far compared to other countries in the region, as it has already granted freedom of religion and belief to citizens and residents for more than 200 years. The answer I discovered was because of the ruling Al Khalifa family, who welcomed everyone to these shores and realized the vital importance of the right to freedom of religion and belief for all.”


She said that Bahrainis and expatriates alike enjoy the right to freedom of religion and belief, more than 150 years before the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights addressed this in Article 18.


“Today, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa continues with enthusiasm and sincerity the historical commitment of his noble predecessors to religious freedom and this right is enshrined in the Constitution of Bahrain.”

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“Today we live in a world where terrorists and extremists use religion for their evil intentions,” Matheson said. “There is a global increase in religiously motivated hate crimes with the use of the Internet to spread extremism and sow the seeds of hatred and violence. Whereas we may be fortunate enough to be able to worship Freely, there are many who are not so lucky.


Statistics reveal that up to 80% of the world’s population lives in areas where religious freedom is denied or severely restricted. The world population is 7.8 billion, which means that the lives of more than 6.2 billion people are not blessed with freedom of religion and belief.”


She said that His Majesty the King was so affected by these statistics that he authored a document entitled “Declaration of the Kingdom of Bahrain” launched in 2017, calling for religious freedom for all peoples of the world. The Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration has been universally embraced as one of the most universally significant declarations of our time.


She added that Bahrain and the 27 countries of the European Union may be geographically thousands of miles away and it seems at first glance a great difference on the political, cultural and linguistic level.


“We may live on separate continents, speak different languages, dress differently and seem to have different societal values ​​and priorities. Our differences must be respected, embraced and explored further to remove ignorance that may cause division. But what about our shared values, beliefs, hopes and dreams? They are more similar and clearer than we think.”


“Our shared beliefs in human dignity, to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of society, to enjoy the right to worship freely and safely, and to live together in peaceful coexistence, in a spirit of mutual respect and love, are also recognized and promoted.”


Matheson added: “I am a firm believer that ‘there is more that unites us than divides us’, that our diversity is to be celebrated, and that we gather together in the Kingdom of Bahrain for the first EU-Bahrain Conference on Freedom of Religion and Beliefs Our similarities will surprise, delight and enhance not only Our common resolve to support FORB for all, but also to forge sincere friendships, partnerships and joint projects to empower youth to allow us to reach deeper depths of mutual understanding and respect and move forward together in our noble efforts for the good of humanity.”

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Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Walid Al-Manea, said that today’s event highlights an event of added value because it talks about the humanitarian aspects.


Today we are talking about freedom – the freedom of religion, speech and thought. If I could use the example of COVID-19 being thought very negatively all over, but there is an advantage of COVID-19 that we as human beings around the world are becoming very united in fighting this pandemic.”


Dr. Al-Manea said: Speaking about this epidemic in the Kingdom of Bahrain, we are very proud of all our achievements. We’ve achieved a lot in terms of vaccination, being among the top three in the world for the most coverage – 85% and 92 or 93% over three years.


He said that not only this, but the booster dose, the fourth dose, treatment, diagnosis, rehabilitation, vaccination, prevention, awareness campaign… All this was done equally without any discrimination in the Kingdom of Bahrain.


“The entire treatment was completely free, even if someone needed treatment in the intensive care unit, it was all free. By the numbers one can see that our vaccination doses are evenly distributed with the choice of 50% of non-Bahrainis.”


Dr. Al-Manea said that everyone was given equal treatment for admission to receive treatment at the hospital.

The Ambassador of the European Union in Bahrain, Patrick Simonet, said that this high-level conference on freedom of religion and belief is organized within the framework of the annual dialogue between the European Union and the Kingdom of Bahrain.

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“It aims to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation in this field, while allowing experts from both sides, such as participants in this conference, to exchange views and open paths for more substantive participation,” he said.


“The issues of peaceful coexistence, which are at the core of King Hamad’s vision for the future of Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, are closely linked to the issue of freedom of religion and belief, a topic that the European Union and Bahrain have been constantly promoting for decades.”


Simonet said: “This creates space for further cooperation in the broader context of EU relations in Bahrain. This high-level conference is experimental and a first step in consolidating this cooperation in mutual understanding and we hope that there will be many other steps, not only with follow-up conferences, but also in practical activities for exchanges between the people of Bahrain. and European Union countries.


He expressed his happiness with the event being held in Bahrain, which was a pioneer and a role model for coexistence and social freedoms in the region.


We greatly appreciate this vision for Bahrain, and it makes us optimistic that peace and security can prevail in the region. The courageous decision of His Majesty the King to agree to the Abraham Agreements is a testament to that.”


He added: “This happened within a long series of activities that we started last March, before Ramadan and continued after the Eid holiday, working closely with our member states. These discussions included a round table, events in cooperation with universities, a program to empower young Bahraini pioneers, the celebration of Europe Day with a concert by a French pianist, and just last night the conclusion of the first European Film Nights event in Manama.”


He added that the European Union will only become more active because we cherish our partnership with Bahrain, and we want to strengthen this multifaceted and valuable dialogue between the peoples of Europe and Bahrain.






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