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Religious freedom, beliefs center stage at OSCE meeting

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, BELIEFS CENTER STAGE AT OSCE MEETING

Freedom of religion or belief, and tolerance and non-discrimination were highlighted Thursday in Vienna at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Those principles provide "an indispensable contribution toward promoting sustainable stability and security in our societies," said ambassador Clemens Koja, who heads the OSCE Permanent Council and is Austria's permanent representative to the intergovernmental security organization, at a meeting organized by the group's 2017 Austrian Chairmanship and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Koja believes dialogue was "essential" to address challenges as it "can foster respect, co-operation and lead to the much needed common understanding of these rights and freedoms, in order to strengthen our democracies and the rule of law," he said.

Those who wish to build flourishing, open, tolerant and inclusive societies face obstacles from "hostile social forces, which are intolerant of and foster dangerous environments for particular religious or belief communities, endanger social peace and cohesion", according to ODIHR Director Michael Georg Link.

"Some participating states have gone so far as to insist that the exercise of freedom of religion or belief requires specific permission from the state, an understanding that goes against the conception of freedom of religion or belief as an inalienable right belonging to everyone, including non-believers, without distinction," Link added.

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