Search for Common Ground (Search) was awarded funding to build Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) Roundtables in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan from 2020-2023. Built into the model was a plan for sustainability which included partnerships with local organizations and a handover to them, built into the third year of the project. This report summarizes our main learnings as to what made these three roundtables succeed. We offer the report to our Search colleagues and local partners, to the wider FoRB movement internationally, and to the growing FoRB roundtables movement hosted by the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Secretariat, in order to encourage and support the future development of roundtables around the world as a key approach to advancing FoRB for all peoples, everywhere.
Background to Search for Common Ground
Search for Common Ground is the world’s largest organization dedicated to peacebuilding, with a physical presence in over 30 countries. We have worked on religious engagement and FoRB for over 20 years, including our flagship initiative, the Universal Code of Conduct on Holy Sites, as well as innovative programming to tackle religiously motivated hate speech, reform legislation, build the engagement of youth and women in FoRB advocacy, engage religious leaders in Early Warning Early Response programs to prevent atrocities, expand peacebuilding through intra- and inter-religious activities in places of conflict, and support networking and programming across Asia. Further information about our wider work on religious engagement and FoRB can be found here.
Background to the Roundtables movement
The Washington DC International Religious Freedom Roundtable was established in 2010 and has achieved a major impact in bringing advocates together with policymakers on FoRB issues through regular weekly meetings. It was the vision of Ambassador Sam Brownback to build roundtables all around the world. Learning from and building on the success of the Washington model, a thriving network of roundtables is now supported through the IRF Secretariat. In 2020, Search was awarded funding to build further roundtables and, learning from the Washington IRF roundtable model, made adaptations to reflect the very different needs and realities in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan. This report captures our learning from setting up and convening the roundtables in these three countries and comprises seven sections: Set up; Contexts; Trust; Capacity Building; Shared vision for shared advocacy; Impact; and Sustainability.