On the occasion of the International Day of Parliamentarism, the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB), ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and the African Parliamentarians Association for Human Rights (AfriPAHR) call on parliamentarians worldwide to work to protect freedom of religion or belief and combat hate speech.

The International Day of Parliamentarism was established by the UN General Assembly in 2018 to celebrate parliaments as important institutions designed to strengthen democracy, advance human rights and bolster good functioning of society.

As the world grappled with a global health crisis, it also faced what the UN Secretary-General called a “tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering.” Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to an increase in discrimination, stigmatization and harassment of religious and belief-based communities. In numerous countries, the pandemic has exacerbated authoritarian trends, flared existing religious intolerance and government restrictions unfairly targeted some religious and belief groups. Apart from their right to freedom of religion or belief, the pandemic has also impacted other human rights of several religious and belief-based groups such as their right to assembly, right to movement, right to health, right to food etc.

Parliamentarians have an important role in addressing human rights concerns in their constituency and country. Developing strong laws and emergency measures with due regard to fundamental freedoms, passing of aid packages and enhancing public confidence and social cohesion are some of the tasks undertaken by parliamentarians to bolster democracy and strengthen resilience in the community.


Parliamentarians therefore are in a unique position to promote fundamental freedoms including the right to freedom of religion and belief, to protect against discrimination, and to combat hate speech. They can do so by ensuring that all governmental restrictions imposed on religious and belief practices of all communities are provided for by law, are proportionate and necessary, and non-discriminatory.

Parliamentarians should also be firmly committed towards combatting discrimination and stigmatization of religious and belief-based groups by way of law, education and national advocacy campaigns. They can do so by actively interacting with local communities and individuals in their constituencies to advance inclusive dialogue and promote solidarity amongst all.

Lawmakers also have a responsibility to combat hate speech and xenophobia and preserving social cohesion by using their public status and political capital to issue positive counter narratives to hate speech and instead promote accurate and reliable information.

Parliamentarians should actively collaborate with diverse stakeholders both in their country and abroad to ensure they can effectively respond not only to the global health crisis but to the ongoing global human rights crisis.


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