Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Marise Payne to the Ministerial Forum of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance
Freedom of religion or belief are fundamental characteristics of societies committed to openness, liberty, and pluralism.
Australia is proud to be a long-term, strong advocate for these rights, reflecting our broader commitment to the universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
However, there remain significant barriers to fully realising the right to freedom of religion or belief globally.
Every part of the world, and every religious tradition, continues to experience some degree of religious intolerance or abuse – which makes the work of this Alliance all the more important.
Since joining the Alliance, Australia has been pleased to work closely with fellow members to advance our shared values – and advocate for those experiencing discrimination or persecution based on religion or belief.
Our statement on “COVID-19 and Religious Minorities” in August was particularly important in light of some governments’ misuse of the pandemic as a pretext to limit individual rights and freedoms, including the right to freedom of religion or belief.
In September, in the United Nations Human Rights Council, we were pleased to join a Brazil-led “Joint Statement on the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance”.
Looking ahead, Australia will focus our efforts under the Alliance on advocacy to repeal the death penalty as a punishment for blasphemy or apostasy.
We are all deeply disturbed by the use of blasphemy and apostasy laws to discriminate against religious belief or practice, and to target individuals and communities to settle personal grievances.
Australia is a long-standing opponent of the death penalty globally. We have vigorously and consistently opposed this punishment in all circumstances, for all people.
When it comes to the use of the death penalty for apostasy or blasphemy, we have been strong in our advocacy, including in the Asia Bibi case in Pakistan.
So, we look forward to joining with Alliance members to multiply our efforts as we work against the death penalty in similar instances.
Finally, may I thank the United States for hosting the first International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance. We appreciate the leadership of the US on this important issue.