Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who oversee Church activities in the countries of West Africa were welcomed as guests and participants at the Fifth Annual African Law and Religion Symposium held in Morocco on May 14-16, 2017.
- Cole Durham
- Special Guests
- Religious Leaders
- Session 2
- Parallel Session
- Parallel Session 1
- Session 4
- Female delegates
- Rabat Morocco
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They were joined by senior officials from the United Nations and European Union, legal and judicial professionals from Africa and Church leaders who oversee Latter-day Saint activities in the countries of Southeast Africa.
“Law, Religion and Security,” was the governing theme of the meeting held in the ancient walled city of Rabat, the capital city of Morocco, a progressive Muslim state in North Africa.
Keynote speaker, Sir Malcolm D. Evans, Chair of the U.N. Subcommittee of Prevention of Torture said, “Religion is actually growing around the world. There are more people on the earth today who are religious than ever before in the world’s history. However, 74 percent of the entire world’s population live under high or very high restrictions to their religious liberty.”
The Brigham Young University International Center for Law and Religion Studies—affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and located in Provo, Utah—was a principal sponsor of the event. The Church has been a champion of religious freedom since its early days.
Joseph Smith, first President of The Church of Jesus Christ, was a pioneer of human rights and was martyred at age 34 for his religious beliefs. Before his death in 1844, Joseph Smith vigorously opposed the prevailing slave trade and defended religious liberty for all:
“…I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle that would trample on the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample on the rights of the Roman Catholics or of any other denomination…”
The initiatives considered during the symposium seek to prevent human rights violations, protect religious liberty and enforce or develop legal frameworks that punish perpetrators. Debates and presentations made by academics and legal professionals from 25 countries were frank and lively.
Sir Malcolm Evans summarized, “Today religion is a more valuable protection to freedom for the people than governments are.” He continued, “Proper respect for religious freedom is essential for global security. Honestly, it is the only real solution.”
The symposium was a follow-up to an event held in Morocco in 2016. More than 100 religious and legal scholars, mostly from Islamic nations, convened to respond to human rights violations, terrorism and the persecution of minorities. They signed the Marrakesh Declaration of 2016 to give “defence to the defenceless and a voice to the voiceless.”
This group of concerned professionals will continue discussions at a conference in Abuja, Nigeria in May 2018.