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ICC Note:

The Kingdom of Bahrain has issued a Declaration for Religious Tolerance which rejects compelled religious observance and asserts the country’s support for religious freedom. This document is unique in the Middle East because it is signed by a head of state, rather than a collection of scholars, and stresses the importance of individual rights. However, Bahrain’s constitution recognizes Sharia as the principal source of legislation and only guarantees the right to express opinions which do not infringe on the “fundamental beliefs of Islamic doctrine.” Hopefully, this declaration will lead to positive reforms within Bahrain’s government which would guarantee the protection of religious freedom.  

09/14/2017 Bahrain (Christianity Today) – The cause of religious freedom received a significant boost from the Muslim world today. The island Kingdom of Bahrain—connected by bridge to Saudi Arabia—has declared “freedom of choice” to be a “divine gift.”

“We unequivocally reject compelled observance,” states the Bahrain Declaration for Religious Tolerance, released September 13 in Los Angeles with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish leaders in attendance. “Every individual has the freedom to practice their religion, providing they do no harm to others, respect the laws of the land, and accept responsibility, spiritually and materially, for their choices.”

Prince Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa of Bahrain signed as an official envoy of the Gulf nation’s king. Johnnie Moore, a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Rabbi Marvin Heir of the Simon Wiesenthal Center also participated, joining ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Israel.

“The King is acting decisively, courageously, and seriously,” Moore told CT, also noting Bahraini sponsorship of a religious tolerance center in the capital city of Manama as well as sponsorship of a chair in religious coexistence at La Sapienza University in Rome. “The declaration goes farther than any similar document that I’m aware of.”

Individual religious freedom is just one of the five points asserted in the declaration.

Preaching hatred and violence in the name of God is condemned as a desecration of his name. Suicide bombing, sexual slavery, and the abuse of women and children are specifically disowned.

“Any act that is found morally repugnant by the vast majority of mankind and is insulting to our collective moral conscience cannot be part of God’s revealed will,” states the declaration’s third point.

“We will do all within our power to ensure that religious faith is a blessing to all mankind and the foundation for peace in the world,” concludes its fifth point.

The declaration comes after months of dialogue in both the United States and the Middle East. It was symbolically signed by the mother of an ISIS suicide bomber in Saudi Arabia as well as one of his victims.

The effort builds upon previous declarations issued from the Muslim world, such as the Marrakesh Declaration (Morocco) in January 2016 and the Jakarta Declaration (Indonesia) in May that same year.

But this declaration is unique in that it is signed by a head of state, as opposed to a collection of scholars.

It also addresses the issue of the individual and his or her rights. Previous declarations stressed the need to protect religious minorities in the Muslim world.

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