The Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe (FOREF) is an independent, secular, civil society formation dedicated to defending the freedom of religion and other fundamental human rights in accordance with international law. FOREF was founded in Vienna, on December 20, 2005, by Prof. Christian Brünner, former Dean of the School of Law (1983-1985) and former Rector (1985-1989) of the University of Graz as well as former member of the Austrian parliament (1990-1994), and by Peter Zoehrer, a human rights activist and freelance journalist.
FOREF regularly reports to the media, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations, Council of Europe, national governments, and other human rights organizations on religious freedom violations in the OSCE-region, and has also taken up issues in China, Pakistan, Malaysia, Korea, Japan and elsewhere. FOREF has established an international scientific board of experts as well as an interdenominational religious board. FOREF has achieved a number of important victories in helping victims of systematic religious intolerance, discrimination and persecution.
FOREF’s Facebook community numbers over 2500 members.
In 2014, FOREF named international human rights activist Dr. Aaron Rhodes* president. FOREF’s executive director is Peter Zoehrer.
The mandate of FOREF is:
- The protection of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief
- The promotion of other basic human rights, democratic principles, civil society, and the Rule of Law
- The monitoring and documentation of official and public intolerance against religious communities and advancing religious tolerance
- Advocacy with local, national, international authorities, civil society, and media
- The promotion of objective approaches to understanding new religious movements
- Supporting civil society’s ability to pro-actively find solutions to inter-religious conflicts
FOREF seeks to defend and promote the principles expressed in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, alone or in community with others, and, in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
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*Dr. Aaron Rhodes was executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights 1993-2007. In 2008, he was made an honorary citizen of the Republic of Austria for his contributions to human rights defense. He was a co-founder of both the Freedom Rights Project, a think-tank, and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. He is the author of The Debasement of Human Rights (Encounter Books, 2018).