Committee: 3rd Committee of the General Assembly (SOCHUM)
Topic Area A: The right to religion and religious manifestation
Religious freedom, or ?freedom of conscience?, has long been the bedrock of democracy. Maintaining this most basic of human freedoms is imperative for us all. This fundamental right is protected by a great number of Treaties of the United Nations and by the majority of the national institutions. However, issues of religious violation and discrimination have been noticed in countries around the world. Differences of religion have created massive division in the society which unfortunately has led to hostility and violence between different religious groups. The Community regards this problem of vital importance and has brought it under discussion many times.
According to our Constitution which was adopted in 1926 and was amended several times since then, Lebanon is Arab in its identity and in its affiliation. It is a founding and active member of the League of Arab States and abides by its pacts and covenants. Lebanon is also a founding and active member of the United Nations Organization and abides by its covenants and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The government shall embody these principles in all fields and areas without exception.
Lebanon is a parliamentary democratic republic based on respect for public liberties, especially the freedom of opinion and belief, and respect for social justice and equality of rights and duties among its citizens without discrimination.
There are 18 officially recognized religious groups with Muslims making up the majority, but not representing a homogeneous group. There is also a variety of other religious groups, primarily Christian denominations of which the largest is the Maronites, as well as a small Jewish population. There are also some very small numbers of Baha?is, Buddhists, and Hindus and some Evangelical denominations in the country which are officially unrecognized religious groups. Officially unrecognized groups may own property and assemble for worship without government interference; legally they may not marry divorce or inherit in the country.
State recognition is a legal requirement for religious groups to conduct certain religious practices. A group that seeks official recognition must submit its dogma and moral principles for government review to ensure that such principles do not contradict popular values and the Constitution. The group must also ensure that the number of its adherents is sufficient to maintain its continuity.
Alternatively, religious groups may apply to obtain recognition through existing religious groups. Official recognition conveys certain benefits, such as tax-exempt status and the right to apply the religion?s codes to personal status matters.
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion (Art.9), and the government generally respects this right in practice; however, there are some restrictions. The Constitution provides for the free exercise of all religious rites with the caveat that public order not be disturbed. The Constitution also provides that the personal status and religious interests of the population be respected. According to article 19 of the Constitution the government permits the official heads of religious communities to refer to the Constitutional Council and exercise authority over matters pertaining to personal status such as marriage, divorce, child custody, inheritance as well as the freedom of belief and religious practice, and the freedom of religious education.
There is no state religion; Lebanon is an advocate of Confessionalism, however, in order to secure the peaceful co-existence of diverse religious and ethnic communities.
In the education field, it is stated in article 10 that it shall be free insofar as it is not contrary to public order and morals and does not affect the dignity of any of the religions or sects. It also stipulates that there shall be no violation of the right of religious communities to have their own schools provided they follow the general rules issued by the state regulating public instruction.
The government allows private religious education. In 2002 Muslim and Christian clergy completed a set of unified religious education material to be used in public schools.
Lebanon does not require citizen?s religious affiliations to be indicated on their passports; however, the government requires that religious affiliations be encoded on national identity cards.
There are no legal barriers to proselytizing; nevertheless, traditional attitudes and edicts of the clerical establishment strongly discourage such activity.
Finally, referring to religious symbols in public places, our government permits them as far as they are not dangerous for the public order.
Taking all the aforementioned issues into account we support that the international community should continue their action towards religious freedom all over the world. Thousands of individuals and citizen groups around the world are still fighting for their freedom of religion. Millions of people around the world suffer some serious violation and deprivation of their basic right to religion and religious manifestation. Therefore, it is our responsibility to grow international awareness and highlight the sense of urgency for respect of these rights. It is our responsibility to ensure a global culture of religious rights.
The global quest for commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights involves everyone. Increased involvement in the defence of the right to religion helps to build an environment where freedom and dignity are expected and respected. It is up to each and every one of us to work towards this dream