“Parliamentarians can make a difference, and we do make a difference” said First Vice President Marit Nybakk (A) in her speech to the assembly of parliamentarians from around the world in the Lagting Chamber on 7 November.
Ms Nybakk’s speech was first on the agenda for the assembly, which had gathered in Oslo to discuss freedom of religion and belief. The two-day meeting has been initiated by Member of Parliament Abid Q. Raja, Member of Parliament for the Liberal Party.
In her speech, Ms Nybakk stressed that the Norwegian Constitution must be up to date if it is to maintain its legitimacy. She told the assembly that earlier this year the Storting had incorporated human rights into the Constitution. This means that the Norwegian Constitution now contains elements of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Declaration.
“Tolerance, mutual respect and trust, embodied in citizens' rights, creates a well-functioning democracy” she said.
A global movement in the making?
“The reason for the initiative is that religious freedom is under severe pressure worldwide. People are oppressed, persecuted and killed because of their faith, lack of faith, or for changing personal beliefs. We cannot sit idly by and watch this kind of oppression and do nothing”, said Mr Raja, who intends to use his position as an MP to change attitudes regarding freedom of religion.
“This is not the end but the start of a global campaign”, he added. Mr Raja, is hoping for increased commitment to this cause worldwide.
Respect for the individual
“Religious freedom is all about respect for human rights”, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.
He highlighted the situation in Iraq and Syria, and said that the atrocities unfolding there are evidence of the lack of respect for human rights and for the individual.
“Such attacks must be stopped”, said Mr Brende, and referred to the fact that religious sites are often targeted by terrorists.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs concluded by stressing that the work of parliamentarians is important - both because parliamentarians can set the agenda, and also because they can make sure that governments keep this topic on their agendas.
The ministers concluded the two-day Oslo meeting by signing the Oslo Declaration for Religious Freedom.