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The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has provided human rights training on freedom of religion or belief to members of European Union (EU) delegations abroad and for those working on human rights cases from Brussels.

The EU, through the European External Action Service (EEAS), has long been a leader in the promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) at the international level. For example, it sponsors a yearly resolution at the UN Human Rights Council during every March session on the promotion of the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief, as well as supporting the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

The EEAS has continued to be a partner to the IHEU and humanists in helping raise individual cases of human rights abuses against humanists and freethinkers in third countries.

And the EEAS has now taken the extra step of including a specific emphasis on the position of humanists, religious dissidents and freethinkers around the world in its most recent training, delivered by IHEU Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey.

Along with others, the IHEU was invited to assist in providing training specifically on the “belief” element of FoRB (under which non-religious worldviews are included) as well as on UN mechanisms and initiatives to help promote freedom of expression along with tackling intolerance and violations of FoRB.

IHEU president Andrew Copson said, “Training courses like these ensure that those representing the EU in countries where humanists are at risk will be much more aware of potential issues suffered by them, and will be in a better position to act, as well as to lobby governments to change their laws.

“We are very happy to be asked to deliver this kind of training, which reflects IHEU’s many years of work in the field of non-religious rights, and which also reflects the EEAS’s commitment to an inclusive understanding of the right to freedom of religion or belief.”

In 2013, the EU published “Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief” (PDF), which call for all countries to repeal blasphemy laws and promote freedom of expression in tandem with freedom of religion or belief for all. IHEU broadly welcomed these guidelines.

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