Norway: Christians and Muslims Sign Declaration on Religious Freedom

The Islamic Council of Norway and the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations have issued a joint declaration outlining the scope of religious freedom entitled to people of faith, particularly Christians and Muslims.

Among those involved in the dialogue to produce the document were the leader of the Islamic Council of Norway, Senaid Kobilica, Church of Norway pastor Anne Hege Grung, General Secretary for the Islamic Council of Norway, Shoaib Sultan, and General Secretary for the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations, Olav Fykse Tveit.

"Freedom of religion is a fundamental principle which must be reflected in attitudes toward people of another faith," said Fykse Tveit. "The right to change one's religious faith is central to freedom of religion."

The Church of Norway said that the actual number of conversions between Islam and Christianity in Norway was actually relatively small, but the Church of Norway said that the declaration would be Norway's contribution to an ongoing international process on the issue of religious freedom and freedom to convert.

In the declaration, the leaders stated, "We denounce, and are committed to counteracting all violence, discrimination and harassment inflicted in reaction to a person's conversion, or desire to convert, from one religion to another, be it in Norway or abroad.

"We interpret our religious traditions such that everyone has the right to freely choose their religious belief and faith community, and to practice their religion publicly as well as privately."

The joint declaration also guaranteed the right for each faith group to share information about their faith to others, as long as it was done without force or manipulation.

The Islamic Council of Norway and the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations have been engaged in interfaith dialogue since 1993.

The dialogue with Norway's Muslim leaders stems from a shared aim to prevent conflicts and create space for understanding between Muslims and Christians as they relate to each other and to Norwegian society in general, said the Church of Norway.

The Church of Norway continues to work closely with the Muslim community - a minority in Norway - to combat prejudice in both communities against the other, as well as islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims in Norwegian society.

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