The protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the further development of effective measures to counter hate crime are central to preventing discrimination against Christians and members of other religions or beliefs, Armenia’s Foreign Minister and OSCE Officials said today at the official opening of a high-level conference in Yerevan, co-organized by the Austrian 2017 OSCE Chairmanship and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) with the support of the Armenian Foreign Ministry.
The conference on “Preventing and Countering Hate Crimes against Christians and Members of other Religious Groups - Perspectives from the OSCE and Beyond” is focusing not only on the current situation with regard to such hate crimes, but also exploring international, national and local responses to, and the role of civil society in preventing these crimes.
“In the OSCE we have developed a broad range of commitments to combat racism, xenophobia, discrimination, anti-Semitism and intolerance, including against Christians, Jews and Muslims, and to prevent and respond to hate crimes,” said Edward Nalbandian, Foreign Minister of Armenia. “There is a consensus among participating states that adherence to these commitments is crucial for the maintenance of peace, stability and security. The protection of Christian communities and members of other religious groups is one of the priorities of Armenia.”
“By holding this meeting, we are stressing the need to address the root causes of intolerance in general, which can give rise to wider conflict and violence, and specifically, intolerance against Christians,” said ODIHR Director Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir. “This is combined with the need to fully respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms – not just freedom from discrimination, but also freedoms of opinion and expression, freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of religion or belief.”
The keynote speaker for the event, Professor Ingeborg Gabriel, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians and Members of Other Religions, highlighted the important role of civil society as a partner in addressing intolerance and discrimination.
“We owe it to others as well as to ourselves to speak up for religious freedom. The history of the OSCE demonstrates that a strong commitment to human rights can be crowned with long-term success,” Gabriel said. “One of the lessons of this experience is that civil society organizations, inspired by secular or religious humanism, are central fellow campaigners in this struggle.”
The event is also providing a forum to explore challenges related to the underreporting of hate crimes targeting Christians, in order to remove barriers to such reporting and to allow for more effective responses to and prevention of these crimes.The conference follows a two-day training event for civil society groups, organized on 20 and 21 November, at which participants learned to recognize, monitor and report on hate crimes, and discussed the specific nature of hate crimes targeting Christians.