The Sixth World Congress of the International Religious Liberty Association on combating religious hatred held in South Africa
16 March 2007
Cape Town (South Africa) – In the beginning of March, the Sixth World Congress of the International Religious Liberty Association took place in Cape Town. Representatives of over 70 countries attended the Congress. The Russian delegation included Secretary-General of the IRLA Eurasian branch Mr. Viktor Vitko; co-chairmen of the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice (SCLJ), attorneys Anatoly Pchelintsev and Vladimir Ryakhovsky; as well as other public and religious figures as reported by the SCLJ press service.
The Congress’s main topic was “Combating Religious Hatred Through Freedom to Believe.” In his intervention, the Russian participant Viktor Vitko stressed the necessity of strengthening legal safeguards of religious freedom in Russia. He also emphasized the role of human rights NGOs in defending freedom of belief and tackling discrimination against believers. The good work done by the SCLJ received a special mention. In the speaker's words, the Centre makes a significant contribution to the fight to uphold religious freedom principles and establish the civil society in Russia. The participants applauded when the Russian presenter informed the Congress about the judgment last October by the European Court of Human Rights which was in favor of the Moscow Branch of the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army was represented in Court by the SCLJ lawyers.
On the sidelines of the Congress, the SCLJ directors met religious, civic and government leaders from various part of the world, including IRLA Secretary General Dr. John Graz; Argentinian Minister for Religious Affairs Jose Camilo Cardoso; Ambassador Robert Seiple, a prominent US public figure and founder of the “World Vision”; and others. They discussed the significance of promoting religious tolerance in Russia and elsewhere.
According to SCLJ directors, the IRLA World Congress has become one of the important global venues where religious workers and defenders of religious freedom from different countries – from Latin America and South Africa to Russia – were able to discuss their problems and celebrate their achievements. The majority of speakers at the Congress concurred that in order to combat religious hatred, something more is needed than merely ensuring religious freedom – namely, active participation of every believer in promoting tolerance and showing the ability to stretch out a hand to people who just yesterday may have seemed one’s enemies.