Evan Mawarire, a Christian pastor from Zimbabwe, speaking at Oslo Freedom Forum 2017
In what The Economist refers to as “an ever more impressive annual gathering of people who have taken a stand for liberty, and those who are determined to help them,” the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF), has taken place in Norway every summer for the last nine years. With over 700 attendees, this year’s forum united dissidents, activists, artists, journalists, and change makers from May 22-24. The stories shared between various OFF participants serve to sharpen campaign focus and forge new alliances in the name of liberty.
The Economist identifies “two of the most inspiring” presentations at OFF 2017 as given by men with contrasting backgrounds but a shared belief in liberty: Evan Mawarire, a Christian pastor from Zimbabwe, who argues that his country has a long way to go to achieve true liberation, and “Tutul,” a Bangladeshi publisher who airs secularist ideas. For example, Tutul’s publishing company has drawn attention to several “secularist heroes” murdered by Islamist extremists over the last few years. While both men have had their lives and well being attacked or threatened, the Oslo Freedom Forum offered them a safe platform to spread their stories and dedication to religious freedom.
Atlas Network partnered with the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) to present a panel entitled "How to Build a Movement Against Illiberalism." Atlas Network and HRF explored how civil society can best mobilize to defend openness and rule of law in open societies. In a setup representative of OFF as a whole, a diverse group of experts drew on their experiences in activism, business, technology, and philanthropy to provide key insights on how we can stand together against the authoritarian tide. “Illiberalism is on the rise, in fledgling and well-established democracies alike. At this turbulent time in global affairs, engaging communities in the protection of individual freedoms is critical,” said Alex Gladstein, HRF’s chief strategy officer.