During the deliberations, attended by representatives of dozens of governments and country representatives, the mounting challenges to religious freedom in Asia-Pacific and worldwide were addressed.
Below is the Declaration, as released on February 19. A final version with all signatories is forthcoming. (For background, click here.)
TAIWAN DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Whereas the universal right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is protected through international law as defined by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Whereas reports by non-governmental organizations, such as Freedom House and government agencies such as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom indicate, religious freedom and related human rights abuse in the Asia Pacific region continue to deteriorate, and threaten regional security and stability.
Whereas the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) and the Inter-Governmental Contact Group for Freedom Religion or Belief are building and strengthening global efforts to promote this fundamental freedom.
Whereas research by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation indicates that the advancement of freedom of religion or belief has a direct correlation with the advancement of democracy, basic human rights, economic prosperity, and thriving civil societies.
Whereas Taiwan has proven to be a model for the Asia Pacific region in promoting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief within in its borders and abroad, and is a strategic location for coordinating human rights initiatives in the Asia Pacific region.
Whereas religious freedom advocates from both government and non-governmental sectors and religious leaders gathered in Taiwan representing 27 countries collectively commit to advancing freedom of religion or belief and related human rights in the Asia Pacific.
Whereas restrictions on freedom of religion or belief have directly contributed to forced immigration and increased number of refugees fleeing government sponsored or tolerated persecution, and subsequently created humanitarian crises in the Asia Pacific region.
Thus, we the signed declare a commitment to establish and reinforce existing networks of religious freedom advocates dedicated to promoting freedom of religion or belief in their respective countries and in the Asia Pacific region, including the creation of both governmental and non-governmental mechanisms to promote freedom of religion or belief and related human rights in our respective communities and countries as a whole.
Further declare a commitment to identify opportunities for partnership with religious and government leaders and representatives from non-governmental organizations and other religious freedom advocates in order to build strategic relationships to promote freedom of religion or belief in the Asia Pacific region.
Further declare a commitment to coordinate and expand advocacy efforts to advance freedom of religion or belief in the Asia Pacific region, including through diplomatic engagement among governments, interfaith cooperation among religious leaders, and representatives from non-governmental organizations and academic institutions.
Further declare a commitment to respond to immigration and refugee issues, including providing safe-haven and human services for individuals and communities affected by restrictions and violations on religious freedom and related human rights.
Further declare a commitment to an awareness of the socio-economic benefits of advancing freedom of religion or belief and an inherent pledge to utilize this knowledge in our respective communities and countries and throughout the Asia Pacific region.
Further declare a commitment to publicly condemn any act of intolerance, discrimination, persecution, or violence perpetrated in the name of religion, and to protecting the rights of religious minorities or other religious communities restricted from teaching, practicing, worshiping or observing their religious traditions.
Further declare that freedom of thought, conscience and religion is an inalienable human right, encompassing the right to hold or not to hold any faith or belief, to change belief, and to be free from coercion to adopt a different belief, and that to be fully enjoyed other incorporated rights must also be respected, such as the freedoms of expression, assembly, education, and movement.
Therefore, the signers of the Taiwan Declaration urge all governments, religious institutions, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations to actively advance freedom of religion or belief by adopting formal written commitments and public statements to upholding freedom of religion or belief in their respective communities and countries.