Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Lord Fakafanua represented Tonga at the Thirtieth Annual International Law and Religion Symposium that was hosted by the Brigham Young University School of Law, at BYU University Provo, Utah from 1 to 3 October.

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Lord Fakafanua, speaking on Freedom of Religion in Tonga

The theme of this year’s symposium was “Protecting the Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion: 75 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. The year 2023 being the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – the symposium focused on its Article 18 protection of thought, conscience, and religion. The UDHR is considered a key accomplishment in the movement toward a culture of individual rights and governmental accountability.

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Lord Fakafanua, speaking on Freedom of Religion in Tonga

Lord Fakafanua provided an overview on Freedom of Religion in Tonga from the vantage point of view of a legislator and proud citizen of the Kingdom during a presentation to Pacific Leaders. He stated, “In a defining moment in the year 1839, King George Tupou I proclaimed Tonga’s dedication to God through the Tukufonua ki Langi, seeking divine protection for our nation. This proclamation marked the inception of religious freedom in Tonga, underlining our belief in protection through faith rather than human means. It laid the cornerstone for religious liberty, a core value woven into the very fabric of Tongan society. Tonga’s Constitution that followed in the year 1875 offers robust protection for religious freedom – more than 70 years before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed in the year 1948.”

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Senator Sasaki L. George (Federated States of Micronesia), Paul Rytting and Lord Fakafanua

The symposium brought together academics, political and government leaders, religious thinkers, and judges to examine the impact of 75 years of protecting the rights of thoughts, conscience, and religion. It was an opportunity to look back and see what has been accomplished and to look forward to see what remains to be done.

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Aaron Schumway and Lord Fakafanua

While in Utah, Lord Fakafanua will meet with senior authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to discuss humanitarian initiatives for Tonga. He will also visit the Church’s humanitarian, self-reliance and family history centers, as well as the Mana Academy Charter School.

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Aaron Schumway and Tonga's delegation

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Eric B. Shumway with Tonga's delegation

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Plenary during the Symposium

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