Committee: 3rd Committee of the General Assembly (SOCHUM)
Topic Area A: The right to religion and religious manifestation
Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina
The promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion and religious manifestation is one of the key human rights priorities. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion underpin many other fundamental freedoms. Often where they are under attack we find that other freedoms are under attack too.
The definition of freedom of religion and religious manifestation is broad, and encompasses not only the freedom to hold a belief but also the freedom to share it, change it and to teach others about it and the right to hold a humanistic, atheistic or non-religious world view. Religion can therefore be questioned or abandoned as well as championed and adopted. All are equally valid choices, and it is the duty of governments and the United Nations to create space for all.
Coming out of the communist era of 1945-1991, when religion was officially discouraged, the constitutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina explicitly provides freedom of religion. Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the ?freedom of thought, Conscience, and religion,? for all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This means that our government gives its people the freedom to change their religion or belief and the freedom to manifest their religion in teaching, practice, worship and observance. The Convention also specifically safeguards the rights of the three major ethnic groups, Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians, and by extension, the three major religious traditions, Roman Catholics, Serb Orthodox and Muslims accordingly. These groups are guaranteed proportional representation in the government and military.
The Law on Religious Freedom reaffirms the right of every citizen to religious education. Most public schools offer religious education classes, but usually only in the majority religion of the region. Reiterating the right to religious education granted in the Constitution, the religion law allows religious organizations to appoint an official representative that will be responsible for teaching religious studies in all public and private academic institutions throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. The representative must be accredited by the governing religious body and then becomes a municipal employee in the region in which he or she teaches. Schools are obligated to offer religion classes to members of a minority religious group if a designated number of students from that group attend the school (15-20 students per class). However, students (or their parents, in the case of primary school students) are not obligated to attend the classes.
Since the end of interethnic hostilities in 1995, the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina has made significant strides to implement the religious freedoms which guarantee its citizens? religious rights under its present Constitution. However, greater oversight and vigilance is needed by the various government agencies charged with upholding the rights of its citizens especially where minority populations live. The international community will also have to continue closely monitoring the situation in this Balkan country from returning to the bloody path it walked in the mid 1990s.
We also urge the whole community to find ways to promote freedom of religion and the right for religious manifestation especially in the countries that these rights have been and are still being violated. We should all join together and raise international awareness by organizing campaigns worldwide to protect human rights in general and the right to religion in particular as it forms the basis for the welfare of human beings.