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5 October 2015

NICOSIA / GENEVA (5 October 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, will join religious leaders, lawmakers and human rights defenders from the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to discuss ways to strengthen and promote cooperation in cross-boundary communication to prevent religious violence.

“Communication helps to overcome prejudices, prevent negative stereotypes and build –or re-build– trust in societies,” Mr. Bielefeldt said, announcing a Regional Conference on ‘Broadening Cross-Boundary Communications’, to be held in Cyprus from 7 to 8 October 2015.

“Violence committed in the name of religion can be prevented through cross-boundary communications,” stressed the human rights expert, who has been cooperating closely with the Office of the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process in promoting interreligious dialogues on the whole island.

Mr. Bielefeldt has in the previous two years taken part in the Interreligious Roundtable on Human Rights in Cyprus that brought together the religious leaders on the island. The cooperation among the religious leaders has led to consistent progress in the realization of freedom of religion or belief on the whole island.

“Building upon the encouraging outcome of the Cyprus Interreligious roundtable, the two-day Regional Conference aims to reach out to different actors of the MENA region, and to facilitate an exchange of their experiences in interreligious or interfaith dialogues,” the Special Rapporteur said.

‘Broadening Cross-Boundary Communications’, which is organised by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), will take place at the Ledra Palace, UN controlled buffer zone.

The Special Rapporteur will hold a press conference on 8 October 2015, at 18h00 at the Home for Cooperation to brief the media on the outcome of the regional conference. Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.

Mr. Bielefeldt will also attend the third Interreligious Roundtable on Human Rights in Cyprus on 6 October 2015 afternoon at the Home for Cooperation, preceded by a meeting with the Religious Leaders of Cyprus at the residence of the Swedish Ambassador that morning.

A lecture on ‘Building trust through cross-boundary communication - experiences in Cyprus and elsewhere’ will be held on 7 October 2015 at 19h30 at Chateau Status in the UN controlled buffer zone. For registration to participate in the lecture on 7 October 2015, please contact Office of the Religious Track: religioustrackcyprus@gmail.com.

The Special Rapporteur has been charged by Human Rights Council:
· To promote the adoption of measures at the national, regional and international levels to ensure the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief;
· To identify existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and present recommendations on ways and means to overcome such obstacles;
· To continue her/his efforts to examine incidents and governmental actions that are incompatible with the provisions of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and to recommend remedial measures as appropriate;
· To continue to apply a gender perspective, inter alia, through the identification of gender-specific abuses, in the reporting process, including in information collection and in recommendations.

Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt (Germany) assumed his mandate in August 2010. Mr. Bielefeldt is Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Politics at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. From 2003 to 2009, he was Director of Germany’s National Human Rights Institution. The Special Rapporteur’s research interests include various interdisciplinary facets of human rights theory and practice, with a focus on freedom of religion or belief.
He was the first human rights expert that conducted an official country visit to Cyprus in the March/April 2012. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/FreedomReligionIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/ReligionOrBelief.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Cyprus: Salpy Weiderud (salpy@weiderud.com) or write to religioustrackcyprus@gmail.com
In Geneva: Chian Yew Lim (+41 22 928 9310 / clim@ohchr.org) or write to freedomofreligion@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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