Leaders of international affairs discuss religious freedom

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Brett G. Scharffs, Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, opens the International Law and Religion Symposium keynote discussion and introduces the speakers. Speakers Francesco Di Lillo and Susan Kerr discussed freedom of religion and the challenges many organizations face. (J. Reuben Clark Law School)

Leaders of international affairs in Europe discussed collaboration among religious organizations Tuesday morning over Zoom, during the final day of the International Law and Religion Symposium. 

Panelists included Francesco Di Lillo, the director of the European International Affairs Office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Susan Kerr, the senior advisor on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

Kerr and Lillo shared ideas in an interview style discussion about the theme “Working Together to Promote Freedom of Religion or Belief in a Divisive World.”

“Freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief is about protecting people, not protecting religion. It’s not just for the religious; it’s also for people who do not have a faith,” Kerr said in the discussion. 

Francesco Di Lillo and Susan Kerr discuss freedom of religion and the challenges groups and organizations face. They said many organizations with different values and beliefs can often struggle to collaborate, and offered some advice toward solutions. (J. Reuben Clark Law School)

Kerr explained that religious freedom requires the cooperation of several different people and groups at a time, and can be a very difficult problem to solve. She said that while there are challenges, there are also many opportunities for solutions. 

Both Kerr and Lillo continued to discuss the importance of collaboration among the many different organizations in the community. One of the key points made during the discussion was how religious organizations who share different core values or belief systems can effectively collaborate. 

“If we only look at what makes us different, we’ll never be able to act towards peace in society. And we are all different, even within a religion or a belief group,” Kerr said. “It’s important that we all recognize each other’s humanity and that we don’t see people by their religious, ethnic or alternate identities, but ultimately we see each other as human beings.”

Kerr concluded the keynote discussion reemphasizing the idea that freedom of religion is not just for the religious, but also for those without a faith. Freedom of religion is a basic human right, allowing all people to openly express their ideas and beliefs.

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