Why Religious Freedom Is Vital: British Parliamentarian Speaks Out On Commonwealth Day

British parliamentarian Baroness Berridge has urged the importance of freedom of religion as part of building peace and social cohesion.

Writing on the Politics Home website to mark Commonwealth Day, Berridge, who is director of the Commonwealth Initiative on the Freedom of Religion or Belief, said: 'In recent years, scholarly research into conflict situations around the world has borne out that the greater respect for freedom of religion or belief correlates in significant ways with a reduction of conflict.'

Marlborough House, from where Commonwealth institutions are administered.Wikimedia Commons

She admitted religion could also be a source of conflict, but said it was 'often pulled into circumstances of pre-existing ethnic, social, economic, and political tension'.

However, she added it 'can also be a source of peace and reconciliation. Religions and religious leaders can often marshal significant social, spiritual, and educational resources toward conflict reduction and resolution. Religious leaders are often at the forefront of democratization and peace-building efforts.'

Berridge, a Conservative peer, quoted Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Scotland, who said at the UN last month that freedom of religion or belief is a cornerstone of democratic societies. She appeared critical of the UK government's failure to reiterate its commitment to FoRB during the same session, saying it was 'even more vital that we, as parliamentarians, united across the Commonwealth, ensure that FoRB rights are upheld and respected'.