International Religious Freedom: A New Era for Advocacy in Response to a New Age of Challenges and Threats at UN headquarters in New York March 1 featured international leaders in the movement to promote religious tolerance and counter oppression.
The program, hosted by the United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, was moderated by Monsignor Tomasz Grysa, deputy permanent observer of the Holy See to the UN and featured U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.
Monsignor Grysa spoke of the rapid increase in violent incidents that target religious believers—acts of intolerance, discrimination, persecution, and even genocide, the likes of which have not been seen in recent memory. He described “increasingly aggressive forms of nationalism hostile to religious minorities that have led to increased systematic intimidation of religious minority groups as disloyal aliens that are dangerous to the state.”
“Eighty percent of the world’s population lives in a religiously restricted atmosphere,” said Ambassador Brownback. “How can we tolerate this continuing situation? You just heard a series of countries and places and faith communities that are in some sort of difficulty or persecuted when, in fact, they are guaranteed this right in most constitutions and by the UN Charter.”
Brownback spoke of “dire situations” facing many religious minority communities in countries that have agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such examples are the 1 million Uighurs imprisoned in China and the nearly 1 million Rohingyas pushed out of their homelands by security forces in Myanmar in an apparent genocide, injustices facing religious minorities in Iran and the genocide perpetrated against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq by the Islamic State.
“We need your advocacy. The situation is dire and we can’t just keep talking about it,” Brownback told the international community.
Brownback spoke of a religious freedom movement beginning to coalesce. He referenced the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom July 16-18 to be hosted by the U.S. State Department, and a series of regional religious freedom summits.
Brownback said that the U.S. is working with six different countries that are launching their own religious freedom roundtables similar to one hosted by the U.S. government in Washington, D.C., where religious freedom advocates gather to discuss topics with Brownback on Capitol Hill.
“The situation is deadly in many places around the world,” said Brownback. “There is deadly violence that happens on the street in social settings toward minority religions in way too many countries.”
Footage of the conference is available on the UN TV website.
From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.
The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.