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http://www.tandemproject.com.
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UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Separation of Religion or Belief and State

Universal Periodic Review reports in six languages

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/fisession1.aspx

If reports below blue bar do not open, click to access these reports in the master link above

Universal Periodic Review - Finland

Only contributions submitted in one of the United Nations official languages are admissible and posted on this webpage

Date of consideration: Wednesday 9 April 2008 - 2.30 p.m. - 5.30 p.m.

National report 1 :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Compilation of UN information 2 :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Summary of stakeholders' information 3 :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Questions submitted in advance

Outcome of the review :

Report of the Working group :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Addendum 1 :

A | C | E | F | R | S

Decision on the outcome :

E only

Report of the eight session of the Human Rights Council :

A|C| E | F | R | S

Related webcast archives

Main Country Page: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/FIIndex.aspx
Inter-active Dialoguehttp://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/FIWebArchives.aspx


BACKGROUND HUMAN RIGHTS & FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

Universal Periodic Review in April 2008 as Preparation for the Universal Periodic Review in April 2012. This is NOT a submission to the UN for a Universal Periodic Review

Prep for 2nd Cycle 13th Session – UPR & Freedom of Religion or Belief

General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

ttp://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/9a30112c27d1167cc12563ed004d8f15?Opendocument

The 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief http://www.tandemproject.com/program/81_dec.htm.


REPORT OF THE WORKING GROUP – RECOMMENDATIONS
RELATING DIRECTLY TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

There were no recommendations in the Inter-active Dialogue or Conclusions and Recommendations relating directly to human rights and freedom of religion or belief.


REPORTS OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/FreedomReligionIndex.aspx

The UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Religion or Belief have not had a Country Visit to Finland.


CONSTITUTION OF FINLAND

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Finland
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Finland

“The new Freedom of Religion Act came into effect in August 2003. It replaced the previous Act of 1923. Freedom of religion is a constitutional right. It entails the right to profess and practice a religion, the right to express a conviction and the right to belong or not to belong to a religious community.

The rationale behind the new Act is the notion of positive freedom of religion. Religion is considered not only as the individual's own choice but also as part of community tradition. The function of the State is to ensure freedom of religion and create the preconditions for its implementation.”


CULTURE OF TOLERANCE AND PEACE BASED ON RELIGION OR BELIEF

ADOPTED BY CONSENSUS WITHOUT A VOTE 

United Nations Resolution – a Culture of Tolerance & Peace Based  on Religion or Belief

Surely one of the best hopes for humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.

One best hope is Resolution A/HRC/16/18/L.47, a Culture of Tolerance and Peace, introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in the UN Human Rights Council and adopted by consensus in the UN General Assembly as A/RES/66/147 on 19 December 2011. 

Introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference  (OIC)  adopted by consensus without a vote. - Resolution A/HRC/16/18/L.38, Geneva, March 24 2011

Recognizes that the open public debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national and international levels can be among the best protections against religious intolerance, and can play a positive role in strengthening democracy and combating religious hatred, and convinced that a continuing dialogue on these issues can help overcome existing misperceptions.

Calls for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue for the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on respect for human rights and diversity of religions and beliefs, and decides to convene a panel discussion on this issue at its seventeenth session within existing resources.

Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC) Mr. Zamir Akram  [English] 10 minutes Saudi Arabia Mr. Ahmed Suleiman Ibrahim Alaquil  [English] [Arabic] 1 minute Norway Ms. Beate Stirø [English] 2 minutes United States of America Mr. Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe [English] 5 minutes Hungary (on behalf of the European Union) Mr. András Dékány  [English] 3 minutes

UN Human Rights Council Panel Statements, Resolution A-HRC-16-18, 2010 General Assembly Third Committee Actions

Introduced by United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) adopted by consensus without a vote – Resolution A/C.3/66/L.47, New York, 15 November 2011

                 UN Third Committee Press Release - Resolution L.47 Adopted by Consensus

                http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/C.3/66/L.47/Rev.1

The Resolution identified as A/RES/66/147 by the General Assembly welcomes the establishment of the “King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural dialogue in Vienna, initiated by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on the  basis of purposes and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and acknowledging the important role that this Centre is expected to play as a platform for the enhancement of interreligious and intercultural dialogue.” 


FOCUS GROUPS ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

Focus Groups on Freedom of Religion or Belief will be proposed to exchange international best practice models on ways to implement United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/66/147.

Focus Questions: Will UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/66/147 matter in Finland to protect and promote religion or belief, cultural identity, principles and values together with international human rights law, principles and values on freedom of religion or belief at a local level?  Will it be used to promote dialogue, programs and balance between assimilation and multi-culturalism in the growing minority populations?

In 1984, the United Nations Secretariat sponsored a two week Geneva Seminar on ways to implement the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief, Seminar on the Encouragement of Understanding, Tolerance and Respect in Matters Relating to Freedom of Religion or Belief (1984) ST/HR/SER. A/16 Geneva.  In 1986, The Tandem Project hosted the first International Conference, Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief,  on how to implement the 1981 UN Declaration.

Discussion included ways to promote tolerance for diversity of religion or belief at a local level. A theist introduced the speaker on Atheism and the 1981 UN Declaration, and an atheist introduced the speaker on Theism and the 1981 UN Declaration. 27 Community Strategies were presented on how to implement the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief at a local level. 
1986 International Conference: Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief

http://www.tandemproject.com/tolerance.pdf


SEPARATION OF RELIGION OR BELIEF AND STATE

Separation of Religion or Belief and State is a term used by The Tandem Project to express core principles of international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief. UN Member States are mandated with or without separation of religion or belief to ensure their constitutional and legal systems provide effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief to all without distinction at international, national and local levels.

UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLE    

International human rights law on freedom of religion or belief protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief, - General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not favor one religion or belief over another. Human Rights Law protects all individuals from discrimination based on religion or belief. It values the equal rights of majority and minority religions or beliefs, indigenous, traditional and new religious movements. It is a universal moral principle.

GOAL

The right of persons to manifest their own values, cultural identity and core principles based on religion or belief, together with human rights law, principles and values on freedom of religion or belief.

Build awareness, understanding and support at international, national and local levels for a UN Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief as a legally-binding international human rights treaty. 

      HISTORY

In 1968, the United Nations deferred passage of a legally-binding convention on religious intolerance saying it was too complicated and sensitive. http://www.tandemproject.com/program/history.htm

In 1981, they adopted a non-binding declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. While very worthwhile, the declaration does not carry the force and commitment of a legally-binding international human rights convention on freedom of religion or belief. http://www.tandemproject.com/program/81_dec.htm.

In 1998, the Oslo Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief was the catalyst a for change of title from Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance to Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

1998 UN Conference Report

In 2012, The Tandem Project plans to launch a new website, Separation of Religion or Belief and State, by subscription,  to track the progress of Resolution A/RES/66/147 a Culture of Tolerance and Peace Based on Religion or Belief.

This Questionnaire measures  inclusive and genuine awareness, understanding and use of international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief. http://www.tandemproject.com/survey/

The Tandem Project believes until a core legally-binding human rights treaty, a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief,  is adopted international human rights law will be incomplete.


FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

U.S. State Department 2010 International Religious Freedom Report, Finland

http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2010/148933.htm

Excerpts

“ The country has an area of 130,127 square miles and a population of 5.3 million. Approximately 81 percent of the population belongs to the ELC and 1 percent to the Orthodox Church. There are seven Roman Catholic congregations with 10,000 estimated registered members, and two Jewish congregations with approximately 1,500 members. Pentecostal church communities registered as associations have an estimated 45,000 members. Only a fraction of Pentecostal churches are registered, however, and the actual number of Pentecostal worshippers is considerably higher.

There are approximately 40,000 Muslims, compared with an estimated 1,000 in 1990 and 15,000 to 20,000 in 1999. In 2009 registered communities consisted of approximately 8,000 Muslims. Their numbers continued to grow due to immigration and a high birthrate. Of these, approximately 30,000 are Sunni and up to 10,000 are Shiite. The largest group is Somali; there are also communities of North Africans, Bosnians, peninsula Arabs, Tartars, Turks, and Iraqis. There are four major Muslim organizations: the Muslim Community in Finland, the Tampere Muslim Community, Shi'a Muslims, and the Multicultural Dawa Center of Islam.

Membership in nonstate but government registered religious groups, which includes some Muslims, totals approximately 64,000. The number of all persons practicing nonstate religions is estimated to be 140,000. The discrepancy is because the government limits its statistics to persons officially registered as members of a particular church or other congregation. An estimated 17.1 percent of the population does not belong to any religious group or they practice their religion "in private" (this figure also includes most Pentecostal worshippers and Muslims).

The rapid modernization of society has modified attitudes toward religion. Society has become more secular, political and social philosophy has diverged from religious philosophy, and religious belief largely has become a private matter. Research indicates, however, that most citizens still consider religion and spirituality very significant in their lives. Despite the small number of persons who attend church services regularly, citizens have a high regard for the church and its activities, consider their membership important, and still value church ceremonies. Most citizens are baptized and married in the church, confirmation classes are common, and most citizens choose religious burial services.” 



2010 Report

Report
November 17, 2010


The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. According to law, the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) and the Orthodox Church are the established state churches.

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

There were no reports of societal abuses of religious freedom or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 130,127 square miles and a population of 5.3 million. Approximately 81 percent of the population belongs to the ELC and 1 percent to the Orthodox Church. There are seven Roman Catholic congregations with 10,000 estimated registered members, and two Jewish congregations with approximately 1,500 members. Pentecostal church communities registered as associations have an estimated 45,000 members. Only a fraction of Pentecostal churches are registered, however, and the actual number of Pentecostal worshippers is considerably higher.

There are approximately 40,000 Muslims, compared with an estimated 1,000 in 1990 and 15,000 to 20,000 in 1999. In 2009 registered communities consisted of approximately 8,000 Muslims. Their numbers continued to grow due to immigration and a high birthrate. Of these, approximately 30,000 are Sunni and up to 10,000 are Shiite. The largest group is Somali; there are also communities of North Africans, Bosnians, peninsula Arabs, Tartars, Turks, and Iraqis. There are four major Muslim organizations: the Muslim Community in Finland, the Tampere Muslim Community, Shi'a Muslims, and the Multicultural Dawa Center of Islam.

Membership in nonstate but government registered religious groups, which includes some Muslims, totals approximately 64,000. The number of all persons practicing nonstate religions is estimated to be 140,000. The discrepancy is because the government limits its statistics to persons officially registered as members of a particular church or other congregation. An estimated 17.1 percent of the population does not belong to any religious group or they practice their religion "in private" (this figure also includes most Pentecostal worshippers and Muslims).

The rapid modernization of society has modified attitudes toward religion. Society has become more secular, political and social philosophy has diverged from religious philosophy, and religious belief largely has become a private matter. Research indicates, however, that most citizens still consider religion and spirituality very significant in their lives. Despite the small number of persons who attend church services regularly, citizens have a high regard for the church and its activities, consider their membership important, and still value church ceremonies. Most citizens are baptized and married in the church, confirmation classes are common, and most citizens choose religious burial services.

As many as 490,000 persons have left the ELC over the past two decades. An estimated 45,000 members left the ELC during the reporting period, slightly fewer than during the previous period, while approximately 10,000 joined. Separation from the church has risen markedly since implementation of the Religious Freedom Act of 2003--there were approximately 16,000 separations that year--which made separation much easier. Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and "nontraditional" religious groups freely profess and propagate their beliefs. Such groups as Jehovah's Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have been active for decades.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The law provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The law includes the right to profess and practice religion and to express personal belief. Everyone has the right to belong, or decline to belong, to a religious community. The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion.

The religious affiliation of a child does not automatically follow that of a parent. Membership in or resignation from a religious community is always based on a separate expression of the will of the parents or guardians, such as baptism. The denomination of any person older than 12 can be changed only with his or her consent.

All citizens who belong to either state church--the ELC or the Orthodox Church--pay a church tax set at 1 to 2 percent of income, varying by congregation, as part of their income tax. Those who do not want to pay the tax must separate from membership. These taxes help defray the cost of running the churches. The state churches record births, deaths, and marriages for members (state registrars do this for other persons).

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Second Day of Christmas.

The Religious Freedom Act of 2003 includes regulations on registered religious communities. To be recognized, a religious group must have at least 20 members, have as its purpose the public practice of religion, and be guided in its activities by a set of rules. The government recognizes 54 religious groups.

The act allows persons to belong to more than one denomination; however, most religious communities do not allow their members to do so.

Registered religious communities other than the ELC and the Orthodox Church are also eligible to apply for state funds. The law provides that communities with 200 or more active members may receive a statutory subsidy from the annual government budget. Twenty-five communities with a total estimated membership of 64,000 qualified by the end of the reporting period. In 2009, $286,000 (200,000 euro) was allocated to 20 communities, amounting to $6.94 (4.85 euro) per member.

All public schools provide religious and philosophical instruction; students may choose to study either subject. In certain Helsinki-area schools, Muslim students outnumber members of the country's second largest religious group, Orthodoxy. Countrywide, the number of Muslim students has increased by approximately 20 percent each year over the past three years. This trend was expected to continue based on current asylum and refugee trends and the group's high birth rate.

In May 2010 seven conscientious objectors (COs) were in prison. Two possible scenarios may affect COs: (1) a conscript may go directly to the military but then refuse service, for which the Ministry of Defense sentences 7 to 12 persons annually, generally to imprisonment, or (2) a conscript may opt to go to the Ministry of Employment and Economic Development for alternative service; if the CO then decides not to comply, or begins but then fails to continue alternative civilian service, he falls under civilian law, which parallels military law on this subject. The outcome is also generally imprisonment for the same term as for a military objector. In 2009, 25 persons were reported to the police for refusing to perform their service or being accused of crimes such as drunkenness while serving or being absent without leave.

COs serve prison terms of 181 days--the legal maximum sentence and equal to one-half the 362 days of alternative civilian service. Regular military service varies between 180 and 362 days. Some of those imprisoned stated that their objection to performing compulsory military or civilian service was based on religious conviction. Jehovah's Witnesses are specifically exempt from performing both military and alternative civilian service.

There was no evidence that the government singled out individuals for prosecution because of their religious beliefs or membership in a religious minority.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were no reports of religious freedom violations by societal actors. There were no reports of anti-Semitic incidents.

Nontraditional religious groups generally were not subject to discrimination, despite the occasional expression of intolerant attitudes by some members of society.

Immigrants did not encounter difficulties in practicing their religious beliefs; however, they sometimes encountered discrimination and xenophobia.

Some citizens were not receptive to proselytizing by adherents of nontraditional religious groups, in part because they regarded religion as a private matter.

There is a history of disputes between the ELC leadership and those of its clergy who refused to cooperate with female ministers, and this conflict continued during the reporting period. The recalcitrant clergy are clearly in the minority, as Irja Askola was elected in June 2010 to be the country's first female ELC bishop. Expected to take office in September 2010, she won a narrow election that saw a 93 percent turn-out of voters, who consisted of ministers, nonordained staff, and lay members.

This move towards gender equality in the clergy was also reflected in a recent court case involving a male chaplain in Oulu who was suspended from his post for eight months after he refused to work with a female priest. The chaplain filed a complaint with the Administrative Court; the suit worked its way through the judicial system until the Supreme Administrative Court ruled in May 2010 that the suspension was legal. This ruling clarified in law the principal of gender equality for religious workers.

The Finnish ELC and Orthodox churches do not provide church marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
Kari Mäkinen, currently bishop of Turku and the Finnish ELC archbishop-elect, supports the ordination of women and blessing of same-sex marriages. Programs available through the Ministries of Education and Labor focus on combating discrimination, including religious discrimination.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. Embassy representatives periodically met with representatives of religious communities--both mainstream and nontraditional--to discuss religious freedom topics.


REFLECTIONS

The Tandem Project

The First Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads: Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

Surely one of the best hopes for humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.

There is an increase in dialogue today between religions and other beliefs to embrace diversity, but few persons, less than one percent of any population, ever participate. This is a challenge. The value of such dialogues is proportionate to the level of participation. For civil society increased participation would create opportunities for education on inclusive and genuine approaches to human rights and freedom of religion or belief. 

In 1968 the United Nations deferred passage of a legally-binding convention on religious intolerance saying it was too complicated and sensitive. Instead, they adopted a non-binding declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. While very worthwhile, the declaration does not carry the force and commitment of a legally-binding international human rights convention on freedom of religion or belief.

Religions and other beliefs historically have been used to justify wars and settle disputes. This is more dangerous today as the possible use of nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction increases. Governments need to consider whether religions and other beliefs trump human rights or human rights trump religions and other beliefs or neither trumps the other. Can international human rights law help to stop the advance and use of such weapons in the face of this historic truth?

  • QUESTION: Weapons of mass destruction as history teaches are often legitimized for national security and justified by cultural, ethnic, religious or political ideology. The U.N. Review Conference on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and studies on biological and cyber weapons demonstrate advances in science and technology is being used to increase their potential for mass destruction. The question is whether an International Convention on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief, elevated and supported equally by the U.N. Human Rights Council and U.N. Security Council, would help offset the risk of weapons of mass destruction. Recognition of the need for synergy to balance rights and security is a foundation for solving this issue.

“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”

- Robert Oppenheimer, quote from the Bhagavad Gita after exploding the first atomic bomb, Trinity 1945.

The Tandem Project believes until a core legally-binding human rights Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief  is adopted international human rights law will be incomplete. It may be time to begin to consider reinstating the 1968 Working Group to bring all matters relating to freedom of religion or belief under one banner, a core international human rights legally-binding treaty.


The Tandem Project a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance, and respect for diversity of religion or belief, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference material and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

Document Attached: Rights and Beliefs