Faith and Democracy goes together!

Indonesien. Fotograf: Hilda Weges

En kvinna i hijab och solglasögon håller armen om en nunna i vitt dok och kors runt halsen.En kvinna i hijab och solglasögon håller armen om en nunna i vitt dok och kors runt halsen.

Respect for human rights is a prerequisite for a democratic society. Based on our Christian values, we believe that every human being is created in the image of God and has inviolable and equal rights to live his or her life in freedom. Due to this we want to contribute to a situation where all human beings can enjoy their human rights and strengthened democracies.

A world where human rights are questioned and civic space is shrinking, needs forces that work against polarisation and for democracy.

Through a strong civil society all rights holders, regardless of their identity (such as sex, age or religious affiliation), can demand their rights and handle conflicts. In that way a pluralistic and inclusive democracy can be sustained and strengthened. Our network in Sweden and the world has a lot to contribute with in efforts towards an increased civic space and freedom of religion or belief for all.

At the SMC we have a specific competence regarding the relationship between freedom of religion and belief and other human rights, democracy and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. We also have a specific competence within what we call religious literacy. Together with our network we see that faith, human rights and democracy needs to be perceived as interconnected in order for the 2030 Agenda to be fulfilled for all. Our special competence within these areas is the foundation for our work within our prioritised area of Faith and democracy. Using the competence, we and our network have, we work in order to bridge polarised and locked positions.

It is problematic that an increasing number of decision- and policy makers, in Sweden as well as internationally, question the relevance of the human rights system. We are concerned when national interests are prioritised above international obligations and when human rights are positioned in opposition to each other. Unfortunately, we see that freedom of religion or belief is often instrumentalised in this polarisation, for example when it is positioned as in opposition against women’s or SOGIE rights. Through our work within the area of Faith and Democracy we contribute with

  • Knowledge about human rights in as inalienable; indivisible; interdependent and interrelated.
  • Knowledge about how religious literacy can contribute to more efficient international development cooperation.
  • An understanding of how human rights conflicts can be handled.
  • Knowledge about the intersection between Christian theology and human rights. What the SMC chooses to call bilingualism.
  • Tools so that everyone working with democracy, human rights and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development can increase their religious literacy and work for a local culture of freedom of religion or belief for all as well as legal and political accountability.
  • Knowledge and analysis about civic space in relation to international development cooperation.

Civil society – a key to strong democracies

International civil society is a key actor in order to rebuild the world better after the Covid pandemic. Civil society harbours a plurality of actors with a specific ability to contribute to a more just and equal world where human rights are respected. Through our broad international network we want to strengthen faith based actors contribution to a sustainable, just, peaceful, equal and democratic society. By supporting local organisation and promoting networks at different levels we want to strengthen the vitality, plurality and resilience of civil society at the international level.

The goal of our work with faith and democracy is to contribute to a vital and resilient civil society which works actively to ensure democratic participation and freedom of religion or belief for all, and where religious actors’ important role in the realisation of the 2030 Agenda and human rights is taken into account by relevant actors.  

Religion and human rights as two languages

SMC wants to contribute to what we call bilingualism. It may for example be the competence to talk about human rights from a religious or theological departing point, e.g., by using stories from the Bible or the Quaran. Being bilingual is one of the ways in which our network can create meaningful dialogue about sensitive issues. It can also be useful to talk about religion by departing from human rights. In this way we are bilingual and can contribute to a greater understanding between different perspectives. We see that the religious language often is silenced, even when those speaking to each other have a religious identity. To elevate the status of religious language and use it in combination with a human rights language provides better preconditions for cooperation and increases the capacity to recognise all human needs.

This is a great asset in our work as we relate to both religious and political decision makers and leaders. But also in conversations with ordinary people from different parts of the world, with different world views and different perspectives on rights and obligations.

En grupp personer på workshop med stora röda, blåa, gröna lappar i händerna.En grupp personer på workshop med stora röda, blåa, gröna lappar i händerna.

Religious literacy

Who Cares About Religion?

Everyone working with people in international development cooperation, in conflict situations, and in social or humanitarian work, need knowledge about the role of religion in the particular context that they work in, in order to do a good job. We know where you can start.

How we work with Religious Literacy
Candomblé-ceremoni i Salvador, BrasilienCandomblé-ceremoni i Salvador, Brasilien

Freedom of Religion or Belief

What is freedom of religion or belief?

Freedom of religion or belief is a human right that gives every person the right to have, to change, or to leave his or her religion or belief. We are experts on this freedom and offer both international educations within our network and online resources to anyone who wishes to learn more.

How we work with Freedom of Religion

Our latest news about faith and democracy


Interfaith Statement at Stockholm +50

We commit ourselves to: Act and practice what we preach, and to become protectors of this earth, to strive to live in harmony and sustainability, through our daily actions, how we invest, how we manage assets, and how we engage within our faith communities.

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Films about Freedom of Religion

We are part of the FoRB Learning Platform where you can access free educational materials such as films and manuals to learn more about this human right.