Baird Announces Support for Religious Freedom

August 26, 2013 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, met in Toronto with Nigerian community leaders to discuss the issue of religious freedom and announced two projects to be supported by the Religious Freedom Fund, including one in Jos, Nigeria.

“The promotion and protection of religious freedom continues to be a priority for our government,” said Baird. “Today’s announcement signals our continued commitment to promoting this fundamental Canadian value around the world. Canada is committed to working with Nigerian institutions, government and civil-society representatives to promote freedom of religion and human rights for all Nigerians.”

These two projects, which will promote dialogue and conflict mediation, will involve training civil society and activities to raise awareness of religious freedom.

“The goals of the Office of Religious Freedom reflect the core values of Canadians: democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law,” said Bennett. “Moreover, the Office responds to the wishes of Canadians to stem the persecution, violence and repression directed against many religious communities around the world.”

The Religious Freedom Fund, which is managed by the Office of Religious Freedom at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, aims to increase the capacity of organizations in various countries to directly address violations of freedom of religion or belief through awareness-building initiatives, and legal and legislative training and support for the promotion of freedom of religion and pluralism.

A backgrounder follows.

- 30 -

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
613-995-1874
media@international.gc.ca
Follow us on Twitter: @DFATDCanada

Backgrounder - Two Projects Funded by Religious Freedom Fund

Nigeria: A two-year project ($553,643) to promote intercommunity dialogue and conflict mediation in Jos and in other parts of Nigeria’s Plateau State, where more than 5,000 people have died since 2001 in clashes between the Hausa-Fulani community, the majority of whom are Muslim, and the Berom community, the majority of whom are Christian. The project will establish a road map with the support of all actors involved in the conflict between Muslims and Christians in Jos and elsewhere in the Plateau State; will develop local mediation capacity and create dialogue opportunities between community and religious leaders; and will train 10 senior government officials and key persons from institutions dealing with peacemaking to strengthen the federal government’s capacity to support conflict management and resolution. The recipient of project funding is the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. 

Eastern Europe, Central Asia and South Caucasus: A three-year project ($672,000) to promote international standards on freedom of religion, focusing on the recognition of religious or belief communities in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the South Caucasus. The project will involve a total of six national training events for government officials and civil society actors in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and South Caucasus; funding for up to 10 small-scale projects seeking ways to address violations of freedom of religion or belief at the national level; the launch of guidelines on the recognition of religious or belief communities at the national level (including one launch in Eastern Europe, Central Asia or South Caucasus) and international level; and three events on the implementation of the guidelines, with government officials and civil society participants invited to ensure that recommendations are taken up at the national level by Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) countries. The recipient of project funding is the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)/Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

In addition, on August 23, 2013, Canada announced an initiative to promote human rights and religious freedom with Indonesia through the SETARA Institute for Democracy and Peace. For more information, please see Canada Strengthens Partnership with Indonesia on Security and Human Rights.