An International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA) delegation paid a solidarity visit to Lebanon on April 26-27, 2023 to meet with government and civil society leaders as well as representatives of faith communities. Led by IRFBA Steering Committee Vice Chair Ambassador Robert Rehak of the Czech Republic, the delegation included envoys and senior representatives from Croatia, Denmark, Hungary, Kosovo, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Adyan Foundation, supported by the Stefanus Alliance of Norway, convened the event, which included additional representatives from the IRFBA Council of Experts. States representatives and members of Council of Experts formed a distinguished delegation of 14 states.
The delegation met with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdallah Bou Habib regarding efforts to protect the right to freedom of religion or belief for all. The participants had expressed its gratitude to the Lebanese state officials for their fight and efforts to support freedom of religion or belief. The delegation discussed with the government representatives the need to protect both the right to free expression and the right to freedom of religion or belief, best practices for combatting intolerance and efforts to preserve Lebanon’s historic diversity and inclusion in the region. The group also met with a group of Members of Parliament of different party affiliations.
Representatives also met with civil society leaders working in Lebanon on equal citizenship, human rights, refugees, and religious freedom. The delegation visited the Port of Beirut Explosion memorial wall adjacent to the Statue of the Immigrant. They met with families of the Port of Beirut explosion and discussed local efforts to pursue justice and accountability as well as helping survivors recover from the tragedy.
The delegation further met with leaders from the Druze community Sheikh Sami Abulmuna, Sunni Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian, Shia community Sheikh Ali Al Khatib, and Maronite Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch Cardinal Bechara Rai to hear their perspectives on the current climate in Lebanon for religious freedom and tolerance and the vital importance of preserving and protecting Lebanon’s religious diversity.