a4cover2016-bookletToday in Brussels we launched the fifth edition of the Freedom of Thought Report. And in a huge change this year the report is no longer primarily a downloadable PDF.

We have been busy building an online system so that each country in the world now has its own individual page on this website. See the Country Index for the full list. The ratings system is database-driven so that each individual country’s rating table is interactive and links back to the full Ratings System page – where you can learn more about our innovative assessment methodology. World maps of the report’s summary findings and an open data platform are also available.

In the foreword to the 2016 edition, the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, said that “narrowly defined views on religious freedom” were letting the non-religious down. He describes several of the cases covered in the report and says: “The IHEU report is an important reminder that the right to freedom from religion or belief is as fundamental as the right to freedom of religion, and that the same human right protects freedom of non-religious thought and non-religious belief as well; and that for some humanists, atheists, free-thinkers and the unconcerned the protection of this right can mean the difference between life and death.”

At the launch event today, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) was hosted by the European Parliamentary Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the European Parliament in Brussels. Dennis de Jong MEP, chair of the Intergroup, welcomed the report saying “It is because of reports like this that we are able to do our jobs [as MEPs]” and “to be more vigilant”. Agreeing with the foreword by Dr Shaheed, he said that the Intergroup itslef “learned a lot from the Report” and would be raising the Report with the European Union’s External Action Service. Miltiadis Kyrkos MEP praised the IHEU’s work and the innovative methodology and development of the Report into its new online format.

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Bob Churchill and Fauzia Ilyas at the laptop as Fauzia is about to launch the Online Edition

On the panel, the report’s Editor, Bob Churchill, introduced the Online Edition, saying that the Report is now more easily searchable and more easily understood than ever before. “Not only do we hope this makes the report more accessible and more visible to more people, we also hope to build on our existing network of contributors using our new collaborative system behind the scenes, to keep the information up to date throughout the year.” Discussing the substance of the 2016 edition, Churchill noted the spread of radical Islamist pressure groups into new territories, and also raised the threat of religious authoritarianism associated with some nationalistic populist movements.

Giving an invited testmony, panel member Fauzia Ilyas, founder of the Atheist and Agnostic Alliance of Pakistan, told how she had been forced to leave the country after receiving credible and consistent death threats. She said, “We live in a country declared as the nursery of Jihadists. Pakistani atheists are running for their lives. This is how Atheists spend their lives in Pakistan. Some of them flee from country, some of them are in prison. How strange it is we are born free but the label of religion is always attached with us by our families and societies, when we try to get rid of this chain or label they book us under the blasphemy law. I want to let people realize that there must be freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We atheist people have no issue with their religion, they can practice it in the way they want but peacefully. We’ll never let them impose it by force on atheists.”

The report’s editor Bob Churchill then invited Fauzia to formally launch the report. She executed the command that published the Country Index in its new online form for the very first time.

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