18 Commitments on “Faith for Rights”
We, faith-based and civil society actorsworking in the field of human rights and gathered in Beirut on
28-29 March 2017, express the deep conviction that our respective religions andbeliefs share a common commitment to upholdingthe dignity and the equal worth of all human beings. Shared human valuesand equal dignity are therefore common roots of our cultures. Faith and rights shouldbe mutually reinforcing spheres. Individual and communal expression ofreligions or beliefs thrive and flourish in environments where human rights,based on the equal worth of all individuals, are protected. Similarly, humanrights can benefit from deeply rooted ethical and spiritual foundationsprovided by religions or beliefs.
The present declaration on “Faith for Rights” reaches out to personsbelonging to religions and beliefs in all regions of the world, with a viewto enhancing cohesive, peaceful and respectful societies on the basis of acommon action-oriented platform agreed by all concerned and open to all actorsthat share its objectives. We value that our declaration on Faith for Rights,like its founding precedent the Rabat Plan of Action, were both conceived andconducted under the auspices and with the support of the United Nations thatrepresents all peoples of the world, and enriched by UN human rights mechanismssuch as Special Rapporteurs and Treaty Body members.
The 2012 Rabat Plan of Actionarticulates three specific core responsibilities of religious leaders:
(a) Religious leaders should refrain from using messages of intolerance orexpressions which may incite violence, hostility or discrimination; (b)Religious leaders also have a crucial role to play in speaking out firmly andpromptly against intolerance, discriminatory stereotyping and instances of hatespeech; and (c) Religious leaders should be clear that violence can never betolerated as a response to incitement to hatred (e.g. violence cannot bejustified by prior provocation).
In order to give concrete effect tothe above three core responsibilities articulated by the Rabat Plan ofAction, which has repeatedly been positively invoked by States, we formulatethe following chart of
18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”,including corresponding follow-upactions:
I. Our mostfundamental responsibility is to standup and act for everyone’s right to free choices and particularly foreveryone’s freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief. We affirm ourcommitment to the universal norms and standards, including Article 18 of theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which does not permit anylimitations whatsoever on the freedom of thought and conscience or on the freedomto have or adopt a religion or belief of one’s choice. These freedoms,unconditionally protected by universal norms, are also sacred and inalienableentitlements according to religious teachings.
Ø“There shall be no compulsion inreligion.” (Qu’ran 2:256);
Ø“The Truth is from your Lord; solet he or she who please believe and let he or she who please disbelieve”(Qu’ran 18:29);
Ø“But if serving the Lord seemsundesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...”(Joshua 24:15)
Ø“No one shall coerce another; noone shall exploit another. Everyone, each individual, has the inalienable birthright to seek and pursue happiness and self-fulfilment. Love and persuasion isthe only law of social coherence.” (GuruGranth Sahib, p. 74)
Ø“When freedom of conscience,liberty of thought and right of speech prevail—that is to say, when every manaccording to his own idealization may give expression to hisbeliefs—development and growth are inevitable.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá)
Ø“People should aim to treat eachother as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance,consideration and compassion.” (Golden Rule)
II. We see thepresent declaration on “Faith for Rights” as a common minimum standard for believers (whether theistic, non-theistic, atheisticor other), based on our conviction that interpretations of religion orbelief should add to the level of protection of human dignity that human-madelaws provide for.
III. As religions are necessarily subject to humaninterpretations, we commit to promote constructive engagement on the understanding of religious texts.Consequently, critical thinking and debate on religious matters should not onlybe tolerated but rather encouraged as a requirement for enlightened religiousinterpretations in a globalized world composed of increasingly multi-culturaland multi-religious societies that are constantly facing evolving challenges.
IV. We pledgeto support and promote equal treatment inall areas and manifestations of religion or belief and to denounce all forms ofdiscriminatory practices. We commit to preventthe use of the notion of “State religion” to discriminate against any individualor group and we consider any such interpretation as contrary to the onenessof humanity and equal dignity of humankind. Similarly, we commit to prevent theuse of “doctrinal secularism” from reducing the space for religious or beliefpluralism in practice.
Ø“Then Peter began to speak: ‘Inow realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism’.” (Acts 10:34)
V. We pledgeto ensure non-discrimination and genderequality in implementing this declaration on “Faith for Rights”. Wespecifically commit to revisit, each within our respective areas of competence,those religious understandings and interpretations that appear to perpetuategender inequality and harmful stereotypes or even condone gender-basedviolence. We pledge to ensure justice and equal worth of everyone as well as toaffirm the right of all women, girls and boys not to be subjected to any formof discrimination and violence, including harmful practices such as femalegenital mutilation, child and/or forced marriages and crimes committed in thename of so-called honour.
Ø“A man should respect his wifemore than he respects himself and love her as much as he loves himself.”(Talmud, Yebamot, 62,b)
Ø“Never will I allow to be lostthe work of any one among you, whether male or female; for you are of oneanother.” (Qu’ran 3, 195)
Ø“O mankind, indeed We havecreated you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you mayknow one another.” (Quran 49:13)
Ø“In the image of God He createdhim male and female. He created them.” (Genesis 1, 27)
Ø“The best among you is he who isbest to his wife” (Hadith)
Ø“It is a woman who is a friendand partner for life. It is woman who keeps the race going. How may we thinklow of her of whom are born the greatest. From a woman a woman is born: nonemay exist without a woman.” (Guru GranthSahib, p. 473)
Ø “Theworld of humanity is possessed of two wings - the male and the female. So longas these two wings are not equivalent in strength the bird will not fly. Untilwomankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena ofactivity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized”(‘Abdu’l-Bahá)
Ø“Acomprehensive, holistic and effective approach to capacity-building should aimto engage influential leaders, such as traditional and religious leaders[…]” (Joint general recommendation No. 31 of the Committee on the Eliminationof Discrimination against Women/general comment No. 18 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on harmfulpractices, CEDAW/C/GC/31-CRC/C/GC/18, para. 70)
VI. We pledgeto stand up for the rights of all personsbelonging to minorities within our respective areas of action and to defendtheir freedom of religion or belief as well as their right to participateequally and effectively in cultural, religious, social, economic and publiclife, as recognized by international human rights law, as a minimum standard ofsolidarity among all believers.
VII. We pledgeto publicly denounce all instances ofadvocacy of hatred that incites to violence, discrimination or hostility, includingthose that lead to atrocity crimes. We bear a direct responsibility to denouncesuch advocacy, particularly when it is conducted in the name of religion orbelief.
Ø“Now this is the command: Do tothe doer to make him do.” (Ancient Egyptian Middle Kingdom);
Ø“Repay injury with justice and kindnesswith kindness." (Confucius)
Ø“What is hateful to you, don’t doto your friend.” (Talmud, Shabat, 31,a)
Ø“Whatever words we utter shouldbe chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them forgood or ill.” (Buddha)
Ø“By self-control and by makingdharma (right conduct) your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself.”(Mahābhārata)
Ø“You shall not take vengeance orbear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus19:18)
Ø“Therefore all things whatsoeverye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the lawand the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
Ø “Ascribe not to any soul that which thouwouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.” (Bahá’u’lláh)
VIII. We therefore pledge to establish, each withinour respective spheres, policies and methodologies to monitor interpretations, determinations or other religious views thatmanifestly conflict with universal human rights norms and standards, regardlessof whether they are pronounced by formal institutions or by self-appointedindividuals. We intend to assume this responsibility in a disciplined objectivemanner only within our own respective areas of competence in an introspectivemanner, without judging the faith or beliefs of others.
Ø“Do not judge, or you too will bejudged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and withthe measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Bible, Matthew 7:1-2)
Ø“Habituate your heart tomercy for the subjects and to affection and kindness for them… since they areof two kinds, either your brother in religion or one like you in creation…So,extend to them your forgiveness and pardon, in the same way as you would likeAllah to extend His forgiveness and pardon to you”—(Letter from Caliph Ali toMalik Ashtar, Governor of Egypt)
Ø“The essential purpose of thereligion of God is to establish unity among mankind. The divine Manifestationswere Founders of the means of fellowship and love. They did not come to creatediscord, strife and hatred in the world. The religion of God is the cause oflove, but if it is made to be the source of enmity and bloodshed, surely itsabsence is preferable to its existence; for then it becomes satanic,detrimental and an obstacle to the human world.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá)
IX. We alsopledge to refrain from, advocate against and jointly condemn any judgemental public determination by any actor who in thename of religion aims at disqualifying the religion or belief of another individualor community in a manner that would expose them to violence in the name ofreligion or deprivation of their human rights.
X. We pledge not to give credence to exclusionary interpretations claiming religiousgrounds in a manner that would instrumentalize religions, beliefs or theirfollowers to incite hatred and violence, for example for electoral purposes orpolitical gains.
XI. We equallycommit not to oppress critical voicesand views on matters of religion or belief, however wrong or offensive they may be perceived, in the name ofthe “sanctity” of the subject matter and we urge States that still have anti-blasphemy or anti-apostasy laws to repealthem, since such laws have a stifling impact on the enjoyment of freedomof thought, conscience, religion or belief as well as on healthy dialogue anddebate about religious issues.
XII. We commit to further refine the curriculums, teachingmaterials and textbooks wherever some religious interpretations, orthe way they are presented, may give rise to the perception of condoningviolence or discrimination. In this context, we pledge to promote respect forpluralism and diversity in the field of religion or belief as well as the rightnot to receive religious instruction that is inconsistent with one’sconviction. We also commit to defend theacademic freedom and freedom of expression, in line with Article 19 of theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, within the religiousdiscourse in order to promote that religious thinking is capable of confrontingnew challenges as well as facilitating free and creative thinking. We commit tosupport efforts in the area of religious reforms in educational andinstitutional areas.
Ø“The only possible basis for asound morality is mutual tolerance and respect.” (A.J. Ayer)
XIII. We pledgeto build on experiences and lessons learned in engaging with children and youth,who are either victims of or vulnerable to incitement to violence in the nameof religion, in order to design methodologies and adapted tools and narrativesto enable religious communities to deal with this phenomenon effectively, withparticular attention to the important role of parents and families in detectingand addressing early signs of vulnerability of children and youth to violencein the name of religion.
Ø“Don’t let anyone look down onyou because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, inconduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
XIV. We pledge to promote, within our respectivespheres of influence, the imperative necessity ofensuring respect in all humanitarianassistance activities of the Principlesof Conduct for the International Red Crossand Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Response Programmes,especially that aid is given regardless of the recipients’ creed and withoutadverse distinction of any kind and that aid will not be used to further aparticular religious standpoint.
XV. We pledge neither to coerce people nor to exploitpersons in vulnerable situations into converting from their religion orbelief, while fully respecting everyone’s freedom to have, adopt or change areligion or belief and the right to manifest it through teaching, practice,worship and observance, either individually or in community with others and inpublic or private.
XVI. We committo leverage the spiritual and moralweight of religions and beliefs with the aim of strengthening the protectionof universal human rights and developing preventative strategies that we adaptto our local contexts, benefitting from the potential support of relevantUnited Nations entities.
Ø“Love your neighbour as yourself.There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12, 31)
Ø“But love your enemies, do good tothem and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your rewardwill be great” (Luke 6, 35)
Ø“The God-conscious being isalways unstained, like the sun, which gives its comfort and warmth to all. TheGod-conscious being looks upon all alike, like the wind, which blows equally uponthe king and the poor beggar.” (Guru Granth Sahib p. 272)
Ø“The religion of God and Hisdivine law are the most potent instruments and the surest of all means for thedawning of the light of unity amongst men. The progress of the world, thedevelopment of nations, the tranquility of peoples, and the peace of all whodwell on earth are among the principles and ordinances of God.”(Bahá’u’lláh)
XVII. We committo support each other at the implementation level of this declaration through exchangeof practices, mutual capacity enhancement and regular activities of skillsupdating for religious and spiritual preachers, teachers and instructors,notably in areas of communication, religious or belief minorities,inter-community mediation, conflict resolution, early detection of communaltensions and remedial techniques. In this vain, we shall explore means ofdeveloping sustained partnerships withspecialised academic institutions so as to promote interdisciplinaryresearch on specific questions related to faith and rights and to benefit fromtheir outcomes that could feed into the programs and tools of our coalition onFaith for Rights.
XVIII. We pledgeto use technological means more creatively and consistently in order todisseminate this declaration and subsequent Faith for Rights messages toenhance cohesive societies enriched by diversity, including in the area ofreligions and beliefs. We will also consider means to produce empoweringcapacity-building and outreach tools and make them available in differentlanguages for use at the local level.
 See UN Doc.A/HRC/22/17/Add.4, annex, appendix, para. 36.
 See Article 18 of theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “(1) Everyone shall havethe right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shallinclude freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, andfreedom, either individually or in community with others and in public orprivate, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practiceand teaching. (2) No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair hisfreedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice. (3) Freedom tomanifest one\'s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations asare prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order,health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. (4) TheStates Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for theliberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure thereligious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”
 These include the Conventionon the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948); ConventionRelating to the Status of Refugees (1951); International Convention on theElimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965); InternationalCovenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); International Covenant onEconomic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); Convention on the Elimination ofAll Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979); Convention against Tortureand Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984); Conventionon the Rights of the Child (1989); International Convention on the Protectionof the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990); Conventionon the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006); and International Conventionfor the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2006).
 These include theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); Declaration on the Elimination ofAll Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981);Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religiousand Linguistic Minorities (1992); Principles of Conduct for the InternationalRed Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Response Programmes(1994); UNESCO Declaration on Principles of Tolerance (1995); Final Document ofthe International Consultative Conference on School Education in Relation toFreedom of Religion or Belief, Tolerance and Non-Discrimination (2001); ToledoGuiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools(2007); United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007);The Hague Statement on “Faith in Human Rights” (2008); Camden Principles onFreedom of Expression and Equality (2009); Human Rights Council resolution16/18 on Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of,and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence against, Persons Basedon Religion or Belief (and Istanbul Process, 2011); Rabat Plan of Action on theprohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred thatconstitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (2012);Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes (2014); Secretary-General’s Plan ofAction to Prevent Violent Extremism (2015); as well as the Fez Declaration onpreventing incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes (2015).
 All quotations fromreligious or belief texts were offered by participants of the Beirut workshopin relation to their own religion or belief and are merely intended to beillustrative and non-exhaustive.