Human rights body partners with Christians to produce animated video

The Human Rights Commission has teamed up with the Evangelical Alliance '“ after a chance meeting through a prayer walk '“ to produce a video on the importance of freedom of conscience, thought and religion.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 20th April 2018, 8:00 am
A scene from the animation jointly produced by the NIHRC and Evangelical Alliance
A scene from the animation jointly produced by the NIHRC and Evangelical Alliance

Both organisations launched the presentation ‘NIHRC Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion’ at the MAC in Belfast on Thursday.

Peter Lynas, director of Evangelical Alliance NI, said the partnership began with a prayer walk they held during the Human Rights Festival.

“Instead of us standing outside, the commission generously invited us in to pray for their work and our relationship has developed since,” he said.

“There is much that we agree on, the modern human rights agenda has been significantly shaped by Christian thinking.”

Working together for the common good and “disagreeing well” on other areas makes the partnership “interesting”, he added.

The three-minute animation explains that government and public bodies are required to respect and protect the diversity of religions and beliefs – but that freedom to practise them can be subject to limits required by the law.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s (NIHRC) chief commissioner Les Allamby said they were pleased to launch the video with the Evangelical Alliance.

“It provides a vital opportunity to raise awareness of the human right to freedom of conscience, thought and religion,” he said.

“As a society it is important that we respect the freedom to hold different religious beliefs or to hold no religious belief at all. There is an important legal and human rights framework that protects these issues, while recognising the parameters within which it applies.”

Mr Lynas added that belief, thought and conscience are critical to who people are.

“That is why it is great to partner with the commission in talking about the fundamental right to freedom of conscience, thought and religion,” he said. “It is so important we ensure the vital role of faith in the public square.”

He hopes the animation will help people to talk openly about beliefs rather than seeing them as a private matter.

Mr Lynas said people have asked how his partnership with the Human Rights Commission sits with the Ashers case, in which a bakery was found guilty of discrimination for refusing to produce a gay-themed cake.

“It is important to note this animation is produced by the Human Rights Commission, which is separate from the Equality Commission,” he said.

“However, the Ashers case reminds us of the importance of being able to practise your faith in the public square. The Supreme Court will be sitting in Belfast in May to hear the Ashers case and we hope a reasonable accommodation can be found.”

A questions and answer panel at the launch included:

• Very Rev Dr Norman Hamilton OBE, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

• Boyd Sleator, Northern Ireland Humanists

• Tracy Harkin from the Iona Institute

• Edwin Graham, Northern Ireland Interfaith Forum