On Monday 21st March the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief hosted an event in the House of Lords exploring the connections between religion, security and foreign policy. The event brought together academic experts, civil society actors and Parliamentarians to discuss and better understand the integral role Freedom of Religion or Belief has in promoting national and international security.
Expert speakers at the event included Professor Cole Durham, Director of the International Center for Law and Religion, Dr Peter Petkoff, Director of the Religion, Law and International Relations Programme at Brunel Law School and Regent’s Park College, Oxford and Dr Kishan Manocha, Senior Advisor on Freedom of Religion or Belief for the OSCE.
Poignant and contemporary issues and recommendations were raised by the speakers. Prof. Durham highlighted the importance of freedom of religion or belief as both a fundamental right and as a crucial ‘tool’ for policy makers to use in the process of bringing about peace and stability. Religious and cultural nuances must be incorporated into foreign policies, requiring deeper research on these topics. He warned against implementing policies which target communities of one faith whilst only attempting to counter very small percentages of violent extremists within such groups as this will only serve to alienate British citizens.
Dr Petkoff further called on the international community to create better mechanisms through which information ‘on the ground’ can be communicated coherently to policy-makers. The ‘strategic culture’ within different nations must be analysed so as to track and understand why actors within such countries take different actions. Without this nuanced flow of information, he argued, effective security and countering extremism strategies cannot be formulated or implemented.