Advancing the freedom of religion or belief for all was at the centre of discussion at roundtable events held in Sarajevo and Banja Luka on 12 and 13 March 2019, respectively. The events were organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), in co-operation with the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Representatives of state, cantonal and municipal authorities, together with the Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, religious communities, civil society organizations and media professionals, participated in the discussions.
“It is very encouraging to see the commitment of so many actors in Sarajevo and Banja Luka to working together to ensure everyone’s right to freedom of religion or belief in these two municipalities,” said Kishan Manocha, ODIHR Senior Adviser on Freedom of Religion or Belief. “It is our sincere hope that the roundtable discussions are only a starting point and that systematic and sustained action will follow.”
The events are part of the ODIHR project “Advancing freedom of religion or belief for all at the local level in Bosnia and Herzegovina” and follow training workshops on freedom of religion or belief for representatives of public authorities, religious communities and civil society conducted by ODIHR in Sarajevo and Banja Luka in February 2019. The project aims to equip relevant actors with the knowledge and skills to address challenges related to the freedom of religion or belief in these municipalities in a collaborative, results-oriented and gender-sensitive manner.
During the event, the participants developed initial roadmaps and plans for advancing the freedom of religion or belief for all in Sarajevo and Banja Luka over the next year. They also discussed means to implement the planned activities, as well as their monitoring and evaluation.
“Promoting freedom of religion or belief is an essential aspect of the OSCE Mission’s mandate in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Fermin Cordoba, Head of the Mission’s Human Dimension Department. “Moving forward, we hope to expand our work in this area to involve as diverse a network as possible, including minority religious communities, civil society organizations, academics and state authorities.”
The ODIHR project will conclude at the end of March with a training event on freedom of religion or belief for youth and students in Sarajevo.