Thanking the UK Government for hosting the meeting, he told delegates: “Freedom of Religion or Belief matters because, when people are free to worship and express themselves, faiths work with others to bring flourishing: they answer the needs of development and reconciliation bring grassroots community transformations that are the golden hope of the soft power of diplomats and development NGOs.”
He highlighted how religious repression can often be linked with wider restrictions in societies.
“We know that, when freedoms of expression and worship are restricted, other freedoms and opportunities are limited too,” he said. “Women, minorities, many other people miss out.”
The Archbishop also cautioned against marginalising freedom of religion. “When national leaders pursue freedom of religion and belief, they have an opportunity to bring a wealth of wisdom around the table, harnessed to the common good,” he said.
Noting that religious communities can themselves be agents of repression and violence, he went on to say that billions have the kind of faith that “inspires people to care for their neighbour, to motivate work for education in schools, or in healthcare”.
He told the summit: “Leadership is never easy. If you don’t offer people freedom, safety and opportunity, or if you only offer this to some people and not to others, you are not really leading – and your people will not want to follow.”
Protecting freedom of religion or belief protects everyone.
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) July 6, 2022