News Release

West Africans Speak at Law and Religion Symposium

Delegates from Around the World Meet to Discuss Religious Freedom

Delegates from Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Sierra Leone attended the 24th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS), held October 1-3, at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

András Sajó, Former Judge and Vice-President, European Court of Human Rights; Professor, Central European University, Hungary, explained in his keynote address, “Religious freedom comes with a huge responsibility. For religious freedom to work, judges and lawyers must deliver on our commitments.”


Over 100 Delegates from 50 countries attended the 2017 symposium, which had as its theme “Religion and Religious Freedom in a Changing World”.

Attendees from West Africa included: Francis Kabia, Ministry of Social Welfare, Sierra Leone; Francoise Angeline Delphine Kaudhjis-Offoumou, Advocate/ Coordonnatrice DDIR, Eglise Catholique de Côte d’Ivoire; Kouyaté Zoumana, Director, Department for the Promotion of Religious Freedom and Secularity, General Direction of Religious Affairs, Côte d’Ivoire; Chijioke C. Ohuruogu, Professor, Faculty of Law, Baze University, Abuja; Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Lecturer, Department of Public Law, University of Lagos; and Maryam T. Kawu, Director of Studies, Nigeria Judicial Institute, Nigeria.

“Governments should be engaged in protecting and securing the religious rights of its citizens.” said Francis Kabia, Director of Social Welfare for Sierra Leone. He stressed the need for religion to be practiced within the context of the rule of law in every country.

Cote d’Ivoire delegate, Francoise Angeline Kaudjhis-Offoumou, advocated the establishment of a “School of Parents” to educate parents on how to ensure their children do not become victims of radicals.

Professor Chijioke Ohuruogu, Faculty of Law at Baze University and Dr. Abiola Akiyode – Afolabi, Lecturer, Department of Public Law, University of Lagos, represented Nigeria.  They made a joint presentation entitled - Freedom of Religion, Conflicting Judgements and Hijab Cases in Nigeria.

“Even though the principle of secularity is enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution, it is rarely adhered to as government, through her actions, favors some religions above some others,”- said Ohuruogu. Together Ohuruogu and Akiyode urged the courts to be consistent in judgements to help eliminate the kind of tension that was created in the country during the recent Hijab cases.


In his concluding remarks, Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., Founding Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, advised all delegates to “roll up [their] sleeves” and do whatever is necessary to promote freedom of religion in their nations.

According to “Each year since 1994, ICLRS has hosted a symposium devoted to the discussion of law and religion…To date, more than 1200 delegates from some 125 countries have met together to discuss principles of religious liberty and to explore mechanisms to better implement these principles.”

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