RESPECT TO SACRED-MEETING AT AU
Abant Platform on Freedom of Expression and Respect to the Sacred
The Turquoise Harmony Institute led a South African delegation to the Abant Platform on Africa, which took place at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 8-9 March 2014.
The conference was organized by the Istanbul based Writers and Journalist Foundation’s Abant Platform, under the auspicious of the African Union and the Office of the AU Commission Chair, H. E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and by the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission (AUC).
The conference topic and theme was on “Freedom of Expression and Respect to the Sacred”, and seen delegates from across Africa and the world discuss various aspects and themes surrounding issues relating to freedom of expression and the respect for faiths.
The conference delegates included a wide and diverse range of participants, which included politicians, academics, activists, civil society leaders, religious leaders, journalist and intellectuals. Under discussion was the relation between freedom of expression, a democratic ideal, and the equally important concept of respecting religion.
The conference was officially opened by H.E. Dr. Aisha L. Abdullahi, Commissioner for Political Affairs Department, African Union Commission who moved to highlight the normative framework developed by the AU to create a more conducive environment for African people to freely express their thoughts and opinions about issues that have bearing on their socio-economic and political development. Dr. Abdullahi further explained that the freedoms of expression and access to information are among the foundations of AU Agenda 2063.
In his opening remarks, Vice-President and Head of Foreign Relations of the Writers and Journalist Foundation, Mr. Huseyin Hurmalı, underline in his remarks on relation between the democratic freedom of expression and respecting sacred. He noted that the challenge created when freedom used to target faiths or religious values, and emphasized on the need to shed light on the relationship between peaceful coexistence and the issues of freedom of speech and respect to sacred.
The Turquoise Harmony Institute delegation included 11 members, including the executive directors, along with a host of South African academics, religious leaders and intellectuals. Among those who contributed, included formed head of the South African Human Rights Commission and High Court Judge Jody Kollapen; Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa Rev. Dr. Thabo Magkoba; and the Director, the International Institute for the Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice, University of the Free State Prof. Prof. André Keet.
In a rapidly changing global discourse around freedom, liberty and democracy, the conference sought to find conceptualise new ideas and encourage new thoughts on issues relating to freedom of expression, and its ability to underpin democracy, whilst at the same time respecting cultural, religious and ethnic sensitivities which would be used as a trigger to cause conflict.