16 November 2020
Statement by Mr. Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland
I welcome the opportunity to address this meeting hosted by my Polish colleague on such a crucial topic.
For centuries, almost all Icelanders belonged to the Lutheran Church. In the past two decades, our society has become more diverse – thanks in part to Polish and Lithuanian immigrants belonging to the Catholic Church and people of the Muslim and Hindu faiths and others.
We have come together in a call to protect the freedom of religion. We must work across faiths to pursue freedom of religion or belief and support interfaith dialogue as we have recently done through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
All over the world, people face persecution and attack for practicing their faith. Christians are no exception, quite the contrary. Recent terror attacks in Europe centred on churches and synagogues are a tragic example. These attacks are a stark reminder that religion can never justify terror and violence, which we must strongly condemn.
More broadly, freedom and democratic values are under threat, and some governments have used the pandemic to crack down on the rights of their citizens. We must be mindful that religious freedom exists alongside other fundamental freedoms and human rights.
Iceland will continue to defend and promote democratic values and freedoms, including religious freedom and freedom of speech. Let us work together to ensure that everyone can enjoy their right to freedom of religion or belief, free from persecution, harassment, discrimination, and violence.