Religious Freedom Commitments

During the cold war in the 1970s, East and West began a dialogue and negotiations that included human-rights issues. In the Helsinki Final Act and subsequent documents, what is now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (54 Western and formerly communist nations) reached agreements on military, economic, environmental, and humanitarian affairs. Here are some of the key commitments on religious liberty.

The participating states will:

*Recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practice, alone or in community with others, religion or belief acting in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience.

*Take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination against individuals or communities on the grounds of religion.

*Foster a climate of mutual tolerance and respect between believers of different communities as well as between believers and nonbelievers.

*Grant upon their request to communities of believers practicing ... within the constitutional framework of their states, recognition of the status provided for them in the respective countries.

*Respect the right of these communities to establish and maintain freely accessible places of worship ... solicit and receive voluntary financial contributions ... produce, import and disseminate religious publications ... maintain direct personal contacts and communication through travel, pilgrimages, and participation in assemblies.

Sources: Helsinki Final Act (1975); Madrid Concluding Document (1983); Vienna Concluding Document (1989).

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