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The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has affected citizens of countries all over the world. A lot of people lost their loved ones, but the pandemic has also influenced public health, labor market, economy and social live. There is no single person who was not affected by the pandemic in some way. However, persons belonging to minority groups are among the most exposed and vulnerable to those disruptions. We need to be aware that the actions that are being undertaken during the pandemic can endanger rights and are in some cases used to justify repressive changes to legislation, disinformation campaigns as well as to increase hate speech or stigmatization of minority groups, including persons belonging to religious minorities.

On 16 and 17 of November 2020 Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, Mr. Zbigniew Rau, will convene the third Ministerial Conference to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief. High-level representatives of states and multilateral organizations, civil society and religious leaders will meet to discuss the situation of religious minorities and how to support them in order to achieve mutual understanding and cooperation between members belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. The aim of the conference is to scale up the international community’s efforts to promote freedom of religion or belief and protect members of religious minorities. This is more important today than ever.

The Conference will be a continuation of the previous two editions organized in 2018 and 2019 by the US Department of State in Washington, DC. Due to the ongoing pandemic and health hazards this year’s edition has moved to a fully digital format. The conference will be transmitted online.  

The conference agenda is scheduled for two days:

Day One (16/11) – the high level session will be an excellent opportunity not only to discuss the current challenges to freedom of religion or belief, but also to reaffirm commitment to the fundamental values underlying the international system of human rights protection including the protection of persons belonging to religious minorities.

Day Two (17/11) – representatives of civil society and religious groups will hold a dialog on how to stay united during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether freedom of religion or belief and security can be harmonized, and how FORB can support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.