Incorporating the Case Fund & the John Gregson Trust

Religion and Conflict Prevention Conference

The Hibbert Trust was pleased to provide financial support to the Europe and Middle East Region of the International Association for Religious Freedom. The funding supported their conference in August 2016 held in Tetovo, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The conference was hosted by the Bektashi Sufi Order, whose Macedonian group is an IARF member, and the Evropa Centre for Human Rights. There were thirty two attendees from 10 European countries plus one from Israel and one from Japan.

The Opening Ceremony attracted TV cameras from four national and local stations as this was the first time such a conference had been held in the Albanian majority city. Macedonia is divided between a Slav majority and an Albanian minority and the Sufis are a "minority within a minority" experiencing religious discrimination along with other unrecognised groups. IARF by its mere presence was able to "shine a light" on this situation. The British and American embassies sent staff to the Opening Ceremony; a strong statement of support.

Interfaith understanding

There was, of course, a major focus on the Balkans with its recent history of inter ethnic and religious violence with Brother Ivo Markovic, a Croat Roman Catholic and a force for peace, giving the keynote address. Hungarian Unitarian Rev llona Szent-Ivanyl spoke on Christian-Muslim dialogue, Prof Aziri on the situation in Macedonia and Prof Arben Sulejmani on Albanian inter-religious dialogue. 

Representatives of the European Network on Religion and Belief ran a workshop on Faith and LGBT issues and there was also a workshop on the Interfaith Board Game that was shown at the Birmingham IARF Conference two years ago.

Conference video

More on the conference and IARF

For a personal view from one of the participants, read Ed Fordham’s fascinating blog.

Please visit the International Association for Religious Freedom's website to find out more.