Those who open the High Commissioner's new United Nations manual on human rights (HCDH), will no doubt be surprised to read on page 4 the following two titles : the collaboration of Collonges and the declaration of Collonges on December 18-19, 2019. They might recognize the cover of the said Manual which is a photo of Salève from a central view with trees chapel at Adventist Campus Salève (CAS).
A bit of history: the Collonges Declaration is part of a series of decisions taken by the United Nations to combat intolerance and religious violence. It contributes to the implementation of United Nations Intergovernmental Action plans and resolutions, such as: human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 (2011); Sustainable Development Goals (2015).); the action Plan for the Prevention of extreme violence (2016), a strategy and action plan against hate speech(2019) and the action plan for the protection of religious sites (2019).
More directly, the Rabat Action Plan (2012) highlights the crucial role of religious leaders in combating hate speech. The Declaration of Beirut Faith for Rights (2017), addresses them directly by hosting them at a meeting with other experts in Beirut, to draft and sign 18 commitments in favour of religious freedom for all, and fundamental human rights. These commitments include opposition to the privileged links between state and religion, laws on blasphemy and apostasy ... are clearly stated. Among the signatories John Graz was invited to represent the CILRAP.
It is in this context, that two professional seminars were organized with the support and encouragement of Ms. Michelle Bachelet, and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The objective was to write a manual for training facilitators in the faith4rights program. The question was : Where to organize these seminars? The close relationship started on the occasion of the 2nd Festival of religious freedom and the 1st Human Rights Day held at Collonges in 2017. What really tipped the scale were the series of meetings between the CIGRAP and the OHCHR. Collonges has been chosen throughout.
Those present were the two United Nations Special Reporters on freedom of religion and belief and minorities, attendants also included academics, association leaders and members of various United Nations committees. These two seminars led to the drafting of a Handbook (Faith4RightsToolkit) containing 18 modules, one for each commitment as well as official documents.
Three members of the CILRAP were among the editors of the textbook, Gabriel Monet representing the Adventist Faculty of theology, Ivan Dekker Dos Santos, a lawyer and professor at the University of Geneva, and John Graz, director of the CILRAP.
The president of the CAS, Jean Philippe Lehmann described the relationship between the Adventist Campus and the OHCHR as historic. One could also use the words: miraculous, incredible, to describe this series of events. It is indeed an extraordinary adventure that begins and all the glory goes to God.
Thanks go to the initiators of the faith for rights programme and to the HCDH who were encouraged to discover the programme for religious freedom which is growing on the CAS campus with the warm welcome that was given to them.
Notes: UN documents cited can be found on the website www.un.org and the # Faith4Rights toolkit.pdf - the Collonges statement is also available here:www.ohchr.org/Documents/Press/faith4rightstoolkit.pdf