Freedom of conscience around the world

09-04-2018

Many international conventions, such as those adopted by the United Nations, and regional conventions emphasise the need to protect freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, to which they attach equal importance. In Europe, these conventions are supplemented by the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Freedom of conscience or opinion covers a wide range of beliefs and practices which reflect attitudes stemming from personal choices; the beliefs and practices involved are not easily categorisable. For that reason, international statistics are sometimes patchy and it is difficult to determine exactly how many people around the world do in fact enjoy freedom of conscience, particularly as in some parts of the world a climate of intolerance makes the exercise of that freedom problematic. Freedom of conscience is not upheld in every country: either the state itself is guilty of discrimination or persecution, or it is incapable of curbing violent social responses motivated by intolerance. It is hard to put a figure on the number of cases involving denial of freedom of conscience, because the victims of persecution go largely unnoticed by the media. In many countries the situation is worrying, and the European Union is committed to defending freedom of conscience in its relations with its partners.

Many international conventions, such as those adopted by the United Nations, and regional conventions emphasise the need to protect freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, to which they attach equal importance. In Europe, these conventions are supplemented by the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Freedom of conscience or opinion covers a wide range of beliefs and practices which reflect attitudes stemming from personal choices; the beliefs and practices involved are not easily categorisable. For that reason, international statistics are sometimes patchy and it is difficult to determine exactly how many people around the world do in fact enjoy freedom of conscience, particularly as in some parts of the world a climate of intolerance makes the exercise of that freedom problematic. Freedom of conscience is not upheld in every country: either the state itself is guilty of discrimination or persecution, or it is incapable of curbing violent social responses motivated by intolerance. It is hard to put a figure on the number of cases involving denial of freedom of conscience, because the victims of persecution go largely unnoticed by the media. In many countries the situation is worrying, and the European Union is committed to defending freedom of conscience in its relations with its partners.