Module 0: Introductory session
Full text of the preamble of the 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”
| We, faith-based and civil society actors working in the field of human rights and gathered in Beirut on
28-29 March 2017, express the deep conviction that our respective religions and beliefs share a common commitment to upholding the dignity and the equal worth of all human beings. Shared human values and equal dignity are therefore common roots of our cultures. Faith and rights should be mutually reinforcing spheres. Individual and communal expression of religions or beliefs thrive and flourish in environments where human rights, based on the equal worth of all individuals, are protected. Similarly, human rights can benefit from deeply rooted ethical and spiritual foundations provided by religions or beliefs.
The present declaration on “Faith for Rights” reaches out to persons belonging to religions and beliefs in all regions of the world, with a view to enhancing cohesive, peaceful and respectful societies on the basis of a common action-oriented platform agreed by all concerned and open to all actors that share its objectives. We value that our declaration on Faith for Rights, like its founding precedent the Rabat Plan of Action, were both conceived and conducted under the auspices and with the support of the United Nations that represents all peoples of the world, and enriched by UN human rights mechanisms such as Special Rapporteurs and Treaty Body members.
The 2012 Rabat Plan of Action articulates three specific core responsibilities of religious leaders:
In order to give concrete effect to the above three core responsibilities articulated by the Rabat Plan of Action, which has repeatedly been positively invoked by States, we formulate the following chart of
People feel strongly about their religion or beliefs, whether theistic, non-theistic, atheistic or any other. This may lead to tensions, especially when religions or beliefs are manipulated. The history of conflicts teaches us that people tend to focus more on what divides them than what they have in common. Interfaith dialogues are important when they adopt a clear methodology that produces concrete results leading to sustainable impact. The context of this module 0 is to prepare participants for a shift from the generalities of interreligious dialogues to concrete actions.
The thrust of the methodology of this #Faith4Rights toolkit is to empower faith actors to become agents of social change in specific areas identified by the 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights”. This requires participatory approaches, multi-disciplinary knowledge and communication skills. Module 0 defines modalities for all the peer-to-peer learning modules that facilitators and participants are invited to adapt to their own contexts and objectives at the local level. This preliminary module also anticipates difficulties that may occur during exchanges and helps to prevent them through the five methodological parameters of the Beirut Declaration in this respect.
Additional supporting documents
The Beirut Declaration and its 18 commitments are at the core of this #Faith4Rights toolkit. In March 2017, OHCHR launched the “Faith for Rights” framework through an expert workshop in Beirut. This framework provides space for a cross-disciplinary reflection and action on the deep, and mutually enriching, connections between religions and human rights. The Beirut Declaration considers that all believers – whether theistic, non-theistic, atheistic or other – should join hands and hearts in articulating ways in which “Faith” can stand up for “Rights” more effectively so that both enhance each other. The objective is to foster the development of peaceful societies, which uphold human dignity and equality for all and where diversity is not just tolerated but fully respected and celebrated. Human diversity is not a threat but rather an asset, as highlighted in the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights: “We must appreciate the richness of our differences while never losing sight of our common humanity and dignity. Every community, including minorities and indigenous peoples, must feel that its identity is respected and that it can fully participate in society as a whole.”
In 2019, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet stressed that the Faith for Rights framework “aims at transforming messages of mercy, compassion and solidarity into inter-communal and faith-based projects towards social, developmental and environmental change”. Furthermore, she underlined in a press release the importance of “the Government, religious authorities and a wide range of civil society actors work[ing] jointly to uphold human dignity and equality for all”. All related documents are available online at the “Faith for Rights” website, including video messages by former High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and former High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.
Peer-to-peer learning exercises
The success of any learning exercise starts with its first steps. A meaningful engagement with faith actors on religions, beliefs and rights necessitates an attitude of openness, humbleness and respect. It also requires prior clarification of a number of substantive and methodological points. This is necessary to pave the road for constructive discussions and productive exercises.
The above-mentioned preliminary tips for facilitators are also addressed, through them, to all participants in their respective #Faith4Rights learning sessions, events, activities and possible “Faith for Rights” projects that participants would hopefully be inspired to implement. Facilitators need to structure their introductory sessions in such a way so as to convey key messages at the outset of their sessions.
Facilitators need to indicate, first and foremost, what they do not intend to do. It is neither about lecturing faith actors on human rights nor is it a theological debate. The #Faith4Rights modules are not conceived as a prefixed top-down training. They aim at stimulating exchanges among different actors to “inspire interdisciplinary research on questions related to faith and rights” and to support a “long overdue cross-disciplinary reflection on the deep, and mutually enriching, connections between religions and human rights”. This interactive exchange takes the form of a peer-to-peer learning exercise in an interdisciplinary manner. The introductory session should emphasize the interactive, respectful and participatory nature of the whole exercise as ground rules at the outset. The introductory session should even allow the participants themselves to refine the programme and its focus, if they have valid suggestions to this end.
The #Faith4Rights toolkit is not a training in the traditional sense, with a rigidly preconceived content. Instead, given that “Faith for Rights” is a dynamic framework, its implementation toolkit calls upon faith actors to enrich and develop the 18 commitments through their personal experiences and local realities. The more than 180 peer-to-peer learning exercises provide methodologies that could be adapted by the facilitator and participants. They may also decide to cover all 18 modules, a selection thereof or only one module, depending on their specific objectives, time frame and available resources. Innovation is recommended. For example, a learning session could creatively benefit from visits to instructive sites and even participation in faith communities’ cultural events.
Introductory round: The facilitators should not take it for granted that the objectives of the training are evident to all participants, even though the term “peer-to-peer learning” says it all. It is therefore useful to start the introductory session with a “tour de table” where participants present themselves and their expectations in less than 3 minutes each. In this “icebreaking exercise”, participants should be encouraged to be as precise and concise as possible so that they all get to know each other, including their respective experiences and expectations. With a sand clock (or a mobile phone timer) ticking in front of all, this is an exercise in itself that already carries a human rights flavour: equal treatment and respectful listening to each other. Participants may be asked:
(1) What do they expect to gain from the programme? and
(2) How their specific expertise could be useful for other participants?
When the nature of the engagement and its objectives are clearly set in this democratic way, participants acquire a first level of ownership of their program. This fundamental prerequisite for success can be enhanced if some points of the initial introductions lead to actually modifying the programme accordingly. “Practice what you preach” should be a principle on which the facilitators set as many examples as possible. Some level of reiteration is also pedagogically useful.
Brainstorming: After this initial “tour-de-table”, the first exercise could be to give participants 5 minutes to answer an initial brainstorming question, such as: How would they design from scratch a training session on faith and human rights? How would they convey human rights messages to faith actors and vice versa? Which approach would they adopt? What resources would they consult? Participants should not be requested to conduct research or provide a comprehensive strategy but rather a simple “mind map” of keywords and sketchy ideas that each participant notes down and keeps throughout the learning exercise. This is their initial idea as to how to bring the intersectionality between faith and rights under consideration. At the end of all the modules, participants may consult their initial notes to observe their trajectory of thinking. They may also share it with the others, if they so wish. This can then also be compared with the vision formulated in the preamble of the 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights” (see text above).
Positioning: This exercise is a second “icebreaker”. The facilitator asks the participants to stand up (literally) against human rights violations and position themselves along one side of the room, with the left corner representing “Religion is part of the problem” and the right corner “Religion is part of the solution”. Another possible question for this spontaneous positioning exercise could be the following: “What is more important to you: Religion or Rights?” A third creative question could be: “Do you think faith and rights are complementary or separate from each other?” Of course participants can also position themselves somewhere in the middle. This positioning exercise could also be repeated at the conclusion of the last module, when participants may see whether they have changed their mind over the course of the programme.
Exploring: Linked to the positioning exercise, the facilitator could also ask the participants to discuss the logo of “Faith for Rights”, for example with these guiding questions: How do you interpret the intersecting words? Is there any hierarchy between Faith and Rights? What does the flame stand for?
Defining ground rules: A final step before embarking on the programme is to define its grounds rules. Even where participants clearly articulate their objectives, these can be compromised if acting towards them is not rules-based and grounded in sound working methods. Which ground rules do the participants wish to adopt and abide by throughout the sessions? This question can be addressed to them while the facilitator notes their replies (for example concerning timeliness of arrival, no use of mobile phones during the sessions, conciseness of interventions, respectful behaviour towards other participants, and so on ). These ground rules could be noted down on a flipchart, for example using post-it notes written by each participant, and remain visible for all participants throughout the modules.
Presenting the modules as peer-to-peer learning, with its programme and ground rules refined by the participants themselves, allows the engagement to hit the learning ground running . The following modules of exercises constitute methodological prototypes. They are open for reshaping in light of the facilitators’ backgrounds and the training’s objectives in a given context. This also means that not necessarily all 18 modules may necessarily be discussed; only those which are deemed relevant for/by the participants.
This introductory session should not be conducted as a mere formality or in a procedural manner. The facilitators of this session are invited to use it as an introduction to the human rights responsibilities of faith actors in society. The preamble of the 18 commitments stresses that “Faith and rights should be mutually reinforcing spheres” and reiterates three core responsibilities of religious leaders as articulated in the Rabat Plan of Action concerning incitement to hatred (see above). Their role should not be confined within their faith group only. It also extends to other communities because faith actors can work towards inclusive societies only if they act in an interfaith manner. Faith actors’ capacity to engage outside their own communities requires a common platform acceptable to all. Both universal human rights norms and the “Faith for Rights” framework provide such common platform. This discussion would then naturally lead to the 18 commitments on “Faith for Rights” to be explored through exercises and practical cases as outlined in the following 18 modules.
- Participants realize that if their influence extends beyond their respective community then the same also applies to their responsibilities.
- Participants are assured that acting unitedly does not mean thinking alike or believing the same.
- Participants realize that inter-faith collaboration is an important part of their work and that it is not only a matter of dialogue but should lead to joint action based on shared premises of which the “Faith for Rights” framework offers a dynamic example.
- Participants in peer-to-peer learning understand that their role as future facilitators of their own learning events starts before such events are held.
- Participants respect that theology is part of the inner freedom of conscience (forum internum) which is absolutely protected under international human rights law.
- Participants reach a conviction that religious and cultural diversity is a strength, of which they are custodians. This precious diversity needs to be managed with full respect, not mere tolerance.
- Management of diversity requires rules and methodologies to observe. Lack of clarity or non-abidance by such rules is counterproductive.