Contemporary Issues of Freedom of Religion or Belief in Armenia, Georgia and beyond Regional Conference took place in Yerevan

On May 24 2019 the regional conference Contemporary Issues of Freedom of Religion or Belief in Armenia, Georgia and beyond took place in Yerevan. The Conference aimed to provide a platform for key stakeholders to discuss the situation and developments of FoRB from different perspectives, to strengthen Armenian-Georgian ties and promote international cooperation.

The Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Netherlands to Armenia and Georgia Jos Douma, the UN Resident Coordinator in Armenia Shօmbi Sharp, Chief Executive Officer of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan welcomed the guests with the opening speeches.

In his welcoming speech, Prime Minister Pashinyan said: “It should be noted that freedom of religion is one of the most important freedoms because I am at least convinced that a person believing in God first of all believes in himself. Consequently, freedom of religion, freedom to believe in God is first of all the freedom of an individual to believe in himself." (The whole text can be found here). 

The Conference focused on issues of freedom of religion or belief and consisted of the following sessions:

  • Session I. Global Challenges in the field of FoRB and the situation in Armenia and Georgia
  • Session II.1. Interreligious dialogue as a tool for conflict transformation
  • Session II.2. FoRB and issues of Education
  • Session III. FoRB under the light of “conflicting rights”

The conference was organized by EPF with the support of the Kingdom of Netherlands,  in the framework of "Towards Sustainable Reform: Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief in Armenia 2018-2021" program. This is the second regional conference organized in Armenia.

Prominent experts in the field, such as the UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB, Ahmed Shaheed (video message), OOSCE/ODIHR Senior Adviser on FoRB, Kishan Manocha, UN OHCHR Senior Human Rights Adviser for the South Caucasus Vladimir Shkolnikov, Council of Religions adjunct to the Public Defender of Georgia Beka Mindiashvili, Director of Tolerance and Diversity Institute in Georgia Mariam Gavtadze, Deputy head of the Standing Commission on Education at National Assembly Hovhannes Hovhannisyan and other specialists facilitated and spoke at the Conference.

The Conference was attended by international experts on FoRB, representatives of international organizations, Armenian Apostolic Church, Georgian Orthodox Church, religious groups, Government representatives and civil society members from both countries.