Rachel Galloway

British Ambassador to Macedonia

Guest blogger for UK in North Macedonia

Part of UK in North Macedonia

27th October 2018 Skopje, North Macedonia

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

A view from the Stonebridge over the river Vardar, in Skopje, Macedonia.

I was brought up in multi-cultural multi-ethnic multi-religious Manchester in the north of England. To me this meant eating different food and celebrating festivals ranging from fireworks at Divali to lighting Chanuckah candles. For my family our beliefs were very important to us but so was respect for other people’s.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change their religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest their religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Lord Ahmad; Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Freedom of Religion and Belief Day is very important for the UK. We are committed to promote and protect the right to freedom of religion or belief around the world. In July this year our Prime Minister announced Lord Ahmad as her Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief. This appointment is part of the PM’s commitment to “do more to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to practice their beliefs openly and in peace and safety”. Freedom of religion and belief is a basic human right, frequently violated by states and/or abused by non-state actors with impunity, often at scale. Violations can range from inhibiting the freedom to worship to endemic discrimination or targeted attacks against whole groups because of their religious identity

Macedonia is a multicultural country like many others in the world. This means that it is rich and diverse in religion and faith practices. There are people who belong to Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, or hold no belief at all. Though we do not directly provide research and report about the state of freedom of religion and belief for the country, we continually follow how faith is practiced in Macedonia and how it affects the societal developments. It is crucially important for our political and programme work. Just recently in one of the programmes we implement on support that we provide to the National Coordinator for countering violent extremism and countering terrorism we supported a public consultation process which brought together the representatives of the both the Islamic Council and Orthodox church together.

The benefits of religious diversity and respect are tremendous. A society that makes room for everyone and includes people no matter their religious, cultural, social or other background is a society where reconciliation is easier, where progress is more dynamic, change is accepted and people have more chances to succeed.

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