From February 20-22, 2023, the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) and Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) convened a “Religious Freedom & Rule of Law Conference” in Cape Town, South Africa. There were over 40 participants consisting of government officials, Members of Parliament, religious leaders (representing traditional African spirituality, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths), and civil society activists from South Africa and the region including Botswana, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
This was the first conference of its kind held in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a major regional bloc made up of 16 member states with a combined population of 345 million. The conference featured global experts in religion and law from the U.S., China, Singapore, Indonesia, and Taiwan, as well as local South African experts. The keynote address was delivered by Professor Rassie Malherbe, one of the drafters of the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms.
FOR SA executive director Michael Swain said, “It has been encouraging to hear the unanimously positive feedback from those who attended.  Apart from the high quality of the content of the presentations, I believe that the time for personal interaction and relationship building that was one of the best ‘take-home values’.”
One of the South African government participants from the Cultural, Religious, and Linguistic Communities (CRL) Rights Commission appreciated the “sharing of diverse and critical viewpoints on religious freedom and rule of law from different countries.”
IGE president and CEO John Boyd said, “As someone who grew up and spent much of my formative years in southern Africa, it is truly heartwarming to see IGE’s work in action, building new friendships and catalyzing local, regional, and international networks of leaders working to advance religious freedom.”
The program concluded with a study tour focusing on the development of religious communities in South Africa. Among the sites visited by conference participants was the Cape Hebrew Congregation, founded in 1841 and the oldest synagogue in South Africa. A member of the congregation talked about the history of the Jewish community in South Africa and the central beliefs of Judaism.
This conference was made possible with the generous support of the Templeton Religion Trust.