22. november 2023
Denne teksten er generalsekretær Ingrid Rosendorf Joys tale til The international Law and Religions Symposium i Salt Lake City, i Usa. Symposiet holdes i forbindelse med Jesu Kristi Kirke av Siste Dagers Helliges Verdenskonferanse, som holder to ganger årlig, og samler mange tusen mennesker årlig, og strømmes over hele verden. I 2024 markerte symposiet 30 års-jubileum. Tema for i år var “Protecting the Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion: 75 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
Dignitaries, your excellences, ladies and gentlemen,
I wish to start by thanking the organizers for making this symposium a reality. For it is indeed timely to bring leaders of the world together to discuss Protecting the Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion, 75 Years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was formulated.
My name is Ingrid Rosendorf Joys, and I am the General Secretary of the Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities in Norway, in short STL.
I will use my time to share with you some few reflections concerning the interreligious work in Norway. I believe our success in bringing religious and non-religious communities together (we call the non-religious communities Life Stance Communities) has led to a culture of peace in Norway. And I will provide an applicable example; the burning of the Quran in the Nordic countries. Let me start with what I understand by a culture of peace. By a culture of peace, I mean that there are few or non, religious conflicts among the religious communities, there is harmony and tolerance between different religions and potential tensions between religion and life stance communities and in the society are delt with peacefully and respectfully among the religious/life stance communities and respective leaders.
So why is it so?
The STL-Council – the interreligious council of Norway – brings together the variety of religious communities and non-religious worldviews as the humanists together for dialogue, the work for equal treatment and social and ethical issues. The Majority religion, the Church of Norway – being the state church up to a few years ago, is seated on equal terms with the minorities like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the Muslims, the Jews, The Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhist, and more. The Church of Norway is recognized to be a special entity due to its history, size and place in the Norwegian society. The minorities appreciate that and are grateful for the role The Church of Norway holds. This does not however mean that there should be privileges to this special position. All citizens are equally recognized. They pay their taxes, send their children to school, and enroll themselves in the military. A member of one religious group is as valuable as another.
Bringing all of the religious communities together is not unique for Norway. Interreligious dialogue is of course not a Norwegian brand. However, we point to three criteria for our success. The first criteria: The Majority religion is as I said sated on equal terms as the others. The Majority religions, The Church of Norway, a Lutheran Folk-Chrurh, former State Church is a constructive partner to the minorities. They show up with representatives on the same level as the minorities and thus underlining the importance of the council. This has empowered our STL council and secured our access to government, public structures etc. Second criteria for success is that we don’t do God. We do not include nor exclude on the basis of theology. We don’t judge based on religious dogmas, practices, or holy texts. The more we differ, the more important is the fellowship we build. We call this building a community of disagreement. And third and last criteria of success is that we from the very beginning included the non-believers, the secular humanists. The secular humanists, the non-believers makes us honest and transparent. From experience religious communities – and perhaps even more religious leaders from different denominations – are often too positive when it comes to religion as a phenomenon the can for instance say “religion is good. Religion is peaceful”. If someone uses religion to do bad, it is seen as they highjacked it. It may very well be true, but we should also remember that the extremists reed the same holy texts and worship the same God as the rest of the religion. The humanists allowed us no short cuts in our interreligious work, we always needed to build our work on widely shared principles, such as the Declaration on human rights.
So what do the STL council actually do?
Peace of society is intrinsically linked with peace of mind and freedom for the human person. For 27 years the council has worked together united in the believe that my freedom is dependent on your freedom, your rights equals my rights.
For this we have formulated the common aims for our work:
To promote equal treatment of religious and life stance communities in Norway, and to promote respect and understanding among religious and life stance communities; In other words, religious and life stance politics as well as dialogue. Religious politics for the Council is both a matter of principles and of practical engagement. The principles leading such political engagement are international human rights, particularly those related to protection from discrimination and freedom of religion and belief. The work for protection from discrimination and affirmation of freedom of religion and belief has in the recent past focused on the areas of education (kindergarten, school, university), work place, health institutions (hospitals and homes for the elderly), detention centres, the military and graveyards.
Working together in the STL council is not because the Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians are friend nor because we like each other. Of course, we start growing friendship, but this is something that comes later. We come together because we realize that our way is better. It is better to build the community of disagreement. Norway is a small country and increasingly pluralistic. We are too few to tolerate a division into camps that cannot talk to each other, and too diverse to just close our eyes for the difference and pretend that it is not there. The solution is to recognize our differences, work together for our common interests and reasonable special interest and treat each other respectfully when we disagree.
Let me than offer my example; the burning of the Quran in the Nordic countries. As you might know, there has been incidents with the burning of the Quran in both Sweeden, Denmark and Norway. I will not judge the work against this nor the legislation in our neighboring countries. I will however draw the attention to the burning of the Quran in Norway. Very few will know that this has been happening – from time to time – also in our country. In Norway this has not led to much ado, not much attention. Why? Our Muslims are also violated by this hideous act. One plausible explanation may be that we strategize together between the religious communities. We acknowledge our Muslim sisters and brother’s offended religious sentiments and stand together with them when they ask their followers not to take part, not to show up to the demonstrations but decide to let the hatred stand alone. This is not easy for the Muslim communities, but when we do this together and find ways to work against this act of hatred in different ways the burning of the Quran is no longer the powerful weapon for the Musim-hating people.
Let me come to an end. This year – 2023 – marks the 75 Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human Rights are built on the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. This is the fundament of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Globally these rights are under pressure. In Norway, we have at large – by the STL council and our legislation for a society open to religion and life stance chosen another path: to include the majority and minorities to work together to build trust and a common ground for all of us. This is because we all value our freedom and acknowledge that my freedom is only true free if you experience the same freedom, my human rights are only safeguarded as long as all others human rights are safeguarded.
22. november 2023