Religious Freedom is a Human Right | James Chen
Covenantal Pluralism
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Grant Title:
Advancing Covenantal Pluralism in Asia
Legal Organization:
The Institute for Global Engagement
Project Dates:
Start Date: 01 April 2019
End Date: 31 March 2022
Grant Amount:

What if religions worked with governments to establish freedom of religion or belief through rule of law?

The Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) is working to advance Covenantal Pluralism in Asia through relational diplomacy and trust-building with high-level government officials and faith communities. 

Advancing Covenantal Pluralism in Asia

Founded twenty years ago by Robert and Margaret Ann Seiple, IGE’s work is part of Templeton Religion Trust’s Covenantal Pluralism initiative. Covenantal Pluralism is a way of thinking about how we might live faithfully with deep religious differences. More than tolerance, it entails the responsibility to engage, respect, and protect people of all faiths, and people of none, without necessarily lending moral equivalency to their beliefs and behavior. 

With this grant from Templeton Religion Trust, IGE is facilitating educational and network-building programs in countries like Uzbekistan and Vietnam where IGE has unique access and partnerships. IGE’s years of investment in diplomacy, trust-building, and program innovation in the region has resulted in the kind of local access and credibility that is necessary to advance Covenantal Pluralism in the region.

Religion and Rule of Law

Every prosperous, stable country shares a common respect for human rights, including freedom of religion or belief supported by rule of law.

Uzbekistan is now on the global stage as it advances through major political, economic, social, and cultural reforms. Recognizing that religious freedom, supported by rule of law, is key to the country’s growth and prosperity, the Uzbek government invited IGE to conduct a five-day religion and rule of law training program for government and faith leaders in November 2019. 

“We wanted to come alongside the Uzbek government and their people to see how we could help.” –James Chen

IGE conducts by invitation training on religion and rule of law for government and faith leaders. This training provides an opportunity for people who would not otherwise meet to get to know one another. It helps change mindsets about religion, leading to changes in behavior.

The participants in IGE’s programs typically consist of three groups of people: government leaders, religious leaders, and scholars. These groups, who do not usually engage one another, create a unique momentum to shift thinking within large swaths of the population. Religious leaders have influence with their members. Government leaders have opportunity to weigh in on important policies and laws. And scholars are helping to build the legal and social framework through which next generation leader will emerge. Together, these three groups can become powerful change-makers.

Due to the progress already made, Uzbekistan is one of only two countries to have been taken off the U.S. State Department’s list of the world’s worst religious freedom violators. 

All People Deserve Religious Freedom

No matter our own cultural contexts, religious affiliations, or moral differences, all people deserve religious freedom. Freedom of religion or belief, supported by rule of law, means flourishing for all.

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