Almost 70 religious and human rights groups met with UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, last week for a conference committed to improving religious freedoms in Southeast Asia.

The two-day event – the first of its kind – was co-organised by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, the International Commission of Jurists, and Boat People SOS.

Bielefeldt told delegates that “the politicisation of religion undermines freedom of religion or belief, not only to the detriment of minorities, but also of followers of majority religions who do not wish to see their faith be turned into a tool of political power gambling.

“We need more cooperation across boundaries, including between faith-based and secular organisations,” he added.

Participants committed to a freedom of religion charter based on the New York Resolution, which was signed at September’s 70th UN General Assembly by parliamentarians from almost 50 countries.