Canada Announces Support for Religious Freedom in Ukraine
October 8, 2014 – Andrew Bennett, Canada’s Ambassador for Religious Freedom, today announced two projects to be supported by the Religious Freedom Fund in Ukraine.
“Canada is proud of its long-standing support to the Ukrainian people in advancing freedom and democracy,” said Ambassador Bennett. “These projects aim to foster the development of a political culture in Ukraine that facilitates democratization, religious freedom and pluralism, which are ideals we share and will courageously defend and protect as the cornerstone of our enduring friendship.”
The Office of Religious Freedom is partnering with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe through its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to increase awareness of international standards on freedom of religion or belief, to prevent and respond to hate crimes, and to facilitate multi-community dialogue on FoRB issues.
The Office is also partnering with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association to educate and promote understanding among the many diverse ethnic and civil communities in different regions of Ukraine.
“It is essential that all Ukrainians, regardless of their church or faith, be allowed to contribute to Ukraine’s democratic development without fear of violence or consequence,” Ambassador Bennett added.
This funding follows the announcement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper earlier this year of $220.9 million in financial assistance to promote economic and social development in Ukraine.
The Religious Freedom Fund, which is managed by the Office of Religious Freedom at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, aims to increase the capacity of organizations in various countries to directly address violations of freedom through a variety of activities, including awareness-building initiatives, legal and legislative training and support for the promotion of freedom of religion and pluralism.
A backgrounder follows.
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Backgrounder: Two Projects Funded by Religious Freedom Fund in Ukraine
Promoting Security for Religious Communities and Others in Ukraine
A three-year project ($950,000), in partnership with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) through its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), that is expected to:
- Increase awareness of international standards on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) and the role of the state in securing them among members of civil society and religious and belief communities, local and regional authorities and judiciary representatives;
- Provide technical skills and professional material related to FoRB and the prevention of and response to hate crimes to civil society, religious and belief communities and law enforcement personnel; and
- Enable dialogue among civil society institutions, religious or belief groups and local and regional authorities about the security of religious and belief communities.
The OSCE, through ODIHR, has worked in the area of FoRB since 1997 and on hate crimes since 2006. ODIHR’s extensive use of the 2004 Guidelines for Review of Legislation Pertaining to Religion or Belief has given it substantial experience in these areas and a solid reputation that is recognized by international non-governmental organizations, government officials, religious and belief communities and civil society organizations. ODIHR has also produced guidelines on the recognition of religious and belief communities.
Promotion of Religious Tolerance and Reconciliation in Ukrainian Civil Society
A two-year project ($240,000) partnering with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) that will deepen inter-cultural awareness and understanding among the many diverse ethnic and civil communities in different regions of Ukraine.
The project aims to provide a better understanding of the challenges to freedom of religious expression, an increased level of religious tolerance in Ukrainian society based on better knowledge of historical facts and rejection of Soviet stereotypes as well as leadership skills for democracy building and intercultural and inter-religious tolerance through international student exchanges, lecture series and summer programs.
CNEWA has conducted charitable work throughout the Middle East, northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe for more than 85 years and has been present in Ukraine since 1993.