Redressing religious inequalities essential for development to be truly inclusive

4th November 2022

The Institute of Development Studies are delighted to share our newly published eBook “What about us? Global Perspectives on Redressing Religious Inequalities”. Co-published with the IDS-led Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID), the book explores how we can make religious equality a reality for those living on the margins of society and politics.


Over 70 people attended the launch, which took place both at IDS and online yesterday and was opened by IDS Director, Professor Melissa Leach.

Professor Leach said, “[the book] and CREID more broadly has put religious inequalities on the map as one of the key axes of inequality that we need to take into account alongside economic inequalities, social inequalities, environmental inequalities, and others. What’s more, it shows how religious inequalities often intersect with other inequalities to create really difficult forms of marginalization.”

She added, “but it [can] also inspire activism moving beyond marginalization, bringing people lives and perspectives to centre stage.”

Speakers at yesterday’s included CREID Director and Editor, Professor Mariz Tadros, and many of the book’s contributing authors: Asif Aqeel, Dr Philip Mader, Dr Moses Muhumuza and Katharine Thane. Time constraints meant that not all the book’s contributors could speak at the event.

They addressed current and urgent issues such as the floods in Pakistan, conservation and the impact of climate change in Uganda, spirituality and indigenous mobilization in India. CREID and others have previously highlighted how discussing religion, faith and belief can be challenging in development and humanitarian circles, which are largely secular and nervous about discussing this topic. Questions in the room and online reflected this nervousness, highlighting the oppressive role of religions, on women’s rights, for example.

Yet, with 80% of the world’s population identifying as having a religious identity, and with many real and material consequences of discrimination and violence based on targeting people for their religion or beliefs, an inclusive approach to development has to tackle the question of religious inequalities head on.  A ground-up approach that links to policy should take into consideration people’s religious and belief identities (and where they identify as of no faith), especially if we want to have an understanding on of how inequalities can intersect and aggravate discrimination and marginalisation.

Professor Tadros, who concluded the event, appealed to researchers and practitioners in the room and online to help us continue to build the evidence around the presence and impact of religious inequalities, around how redressing religious inequalities can lead to more inclusive development and around donor accountability and the disconnects between inclusivity claims and the reality on the ground.

About the book

‘What about us?’ describes individual and collective struggles of the religiously marginalised to be recognised and their inequalities, religious or otherwise, redressed. It is also about the efforts of civil society, governments, multilateral actors, and scholars to promote freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) whatever shape they take.

‘This inspiring book draws attention to a blind spot in development thinking and action. After this book, the depth and extent of religious inequalities can no longer be overlooked. Readers personally affected by religious discriminations will recognise that they are not alone. Their struggles for equality and tolerance are found in many forms all over the world’
Robert Chambers, Research Associate, IDS

Human rights mechanisms do not only rely on legal instruments for their effectiveness. They also benefit from analyses of how norms are received locally. This book presents rich offerings that can help us better advance freedom of religion or belief in ways that connect with realities on the ground and can prove more meaningful.’ Professor Nazila Ghanea, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

The eBook is now available for download from the IDS website.

To read the EPUB file, you will need to have an eBook reader installed. There is a guide on the IDS OpenDocs page for how to download and access the EPUB on your device. You can also download the book for your device directly from Amazon, AppleKoboBarnes & Noble, Google, or the British Library. Finally, a full PDF of the book is also available for download on the IDS OpenDocs page.

Find out more about CREID 

Visit the CREID website to find out more about our work, and sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date with our latest news and events.