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Declaration of the OAS General Secretariat on the International Day of Religious Freedom

  October 27, 2023

Today, October 27, we commemorate the International Day of Religious Freedom. For both the member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the General Secretariat, this issue, as well as the value of the contribution of religion and spirituality to democracy, is a fundamental issue that has been increasingly gaining greater relevance. The resolution on the “Strengthening protection and promotion of the right to freedom of conscience and religion or belief,” approved in 2019 and ratified in 2022 and 2023, is a clear example of this. The mandates of this resolution have been fulfilled with effectiveness and commitment.

In line with that resolution and with the declaration issued by this General Secretariat on February 27 of this year, we reaffirm the importance of freedom of religion, belief and even not having any particular religious affiliation, as fundamental rights for individuals and communities, as supported by numerous International Conventions. Belief and spirituality are important components in the development of people, while the action of religious communities in various areas of society offers support and accompaniment to important social sectors, many of them in situations of marginalization.

During the “Dialogue in Support of Freedom of Conscience, Religion or Belief and Pluralism in the Americas” organized by the OAS General Secretariat on September 29, there was consensus that it is important to consider that religious pluralism goes beyond religious diversity. This distinction emphasizes the fact that the recognition of the diversity of belief and spirituality must be translated into concrete actions and policies of inclusion, dialogue and articulation in broader instances. It is important to value the role of religion and spirituality in the construction of democracy and social well-being, together with States, religious leaders, faith-based organizations, civil society, social movements and international organizations.

For this pluralism to be effective, cases of discrimination for religious reasons must be addressed, which continues to be a concern in several countries in our region, especially against minority expressions. In the case of indigenous groups and Afro-descendant communities, said discrimination deepens even further through the channeling of other structural problems, linked to injustices in terms of racialization, marginalization, territoriality and social exclusion. Also worrying are cases of instrumentalization of religious discourse, with the aim of legitimizing discriminatory practices. Finally, it is necessary to work on the creation of secular regimes and the deepening of secular States, with the purpose of building more effective public articulations with the plurality of religious and spiritual expressions.

For all these reasons, we urge States, religious leaders, faith-based organizations, civil society and social movements to continue generating spaces for meeting and dialogue with the plurality of religious and spiritual voices that make up our territories, to work together in agendas that expand democratic rights and practices. With this Declaration, we urge the countries of the region to continue developing legal frameworks and public policies that serve to improve the relationship with spirituality, starting with respect for all voices and facilitating ways of meeting between the various social agents, religions and society in general. It is important to make visible the value of religious plurality for progress in the construction of environments of respect, mutual care and peace, essential for the construction and strengthening of democratic societies.

Reference: E-070/23