Are freedom of religion or belief and security reconcilable?


  • Silvio Ferrari Milano University



freedom of religion or belief, security, conversion, registration of religious organisation


This paper presents the OSCE / ODIHR document on "Freedom of Religion or Belief and Security", placing it in the broader context of the debate about securitization of religion.

The author proposes to consider the document in three stages: 1) to put the document in its context; 2) explain the concept of comprehensive security developed by the OSCE; 3) to suggest several considerations regarding its application to freedom of religion or belief.

The political and cultural context is one of the two global processes that today most affect freedom of religion or belief around the world - the nationalization of religion and its securitization. Addressing the potential danger to religion by security, the author criticizes the position of those countries which believe that violence and terrorism, which is becoming more frequent in many parts of the world, is inspired by religious behavior. And so not only in totalitarian or authoritarian states that do not care for human rights, but also in some democratic societies.

Understanding the relationship between religious freedom and security, the author proposes to move away from the traditional, state-oriented concept of security, which focuses primarily on the security of states against military aggression, to one focused on the security of people, their protection and empowerment. It is proposed to treat national, state, and military security as tools for personal and public security, which are the basis of today's security concept.

The document proposes three guiding principles that provide a sound basis for resolving the conflict between the right to religious freedom and the right to security.

1) the principle of teaching that offers educational programs that promote knowledge of different religions and their social manifestations.

But learning to live in a religiously diverse environment is not enough. By itself, it will not create a cohesive and inclusive "common life" so we need

2) the principle of interaction. Without personal involvement in the dialogue, knowledge alone cannot create mutual respect.

Training and interaction are needed

3) an enabling environment that can be built through political and legal measures that create confidence and trust through the recognition of rights, including the right to freedom of religion.


Based on these guidelines, the article proposes to address the four cases discussed in the document: conversion, religious extremism, places of worship and meetings, registration of religious organizations. The author analyzes in detail the conversion and registration. Registering a religious or religious organization is far from a technique that only applies to lawyers. This can be a matter of life or death for the whole organization, since simple transactions such as opening a bank account or renting a meeting room are subject to registration. The picture becomes more problematic for so-called "extremist" religious organizations. we need distinc extremism and violent extremism and address security-related measures behaviors rather than thoughts or beliefs.

The recommendations are not just for the States. Religious communities, civil society organizations and the media "play an important role in the relationship between freedom of religion or religion and security." They are responsible for creating a cultural and social environment based on responsibility and dedication, the two virtues needed to harmonize freedom and security.



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