Speak for those who cannot speak; seek justice for all those on the verge of destruction.
Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and oppressed.
Proverbs 31:8-9 (ISV)
Discrimination, restrictions on the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief, and religiously motivated violence are on the rise. These have become, and have always been, the norm in the life and witness of the Church in most parts of the world today.
Being a voice for over 600 million evangelicals, how is the WEA responding to the ever-increasing threats to religious liberty?
Inspired by Proverbs 31:8-9, the WEA Geneva Liaison Office began to actively engage the United Nations (UN) Human Rights mechanisms in 2012 in defence of human rights, and predominately, the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief. The office’s aim is to foster structural changes in countries where our national Evangelical Alliances work, to strengthen the rule of law, to advance the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief, and ultimately, to enable an environment for a more vibrant Christian witness.
Why is a UN presence important?
As surprising as it may seem, the WEA Geneva Liaison Office is the only evangelical representative body advocating for religious freedom on behalf of the more than 600 million evangelicals at the UN in Geneva! And regularly, States that persecute or discriminate against religious minorities have to defend their human rights record at the UN’s Human Rights Council. By relaying the voices of national Evangelical Alliances, the WEA has a unique contribution to bring to the conversation.
In a recent article, Wissam al-Saliby reflected on what evangelical engagement with the UN means when it comes to advocacy for religious freedom, and explained more in detail how WEA’s voice can be of influence in this unique context:
What does WEA’s Geneva Liaison Office do?
The main tool available is to submit reports to various Geneva-based UN Human Rights mechanisms including the regular Human Rights Council sessions, the Universal Periodic Review, the Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. These reports would relay the information provided by WEA member Alliances.
The following are examples of reports submitted over the course of this year:
- Malaysia: Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Safety of the Christian Minority, addressing the use of the word “Allah” by Christians, the wellbeing and safety of all religious workers, and rising hostility against Christians
- Bhutan: Freedom of Religion or Belief, addresses ongoing criminalization of religious “coercion or inducement,” the registration of religious organizations and discrimination against Christians
- Central African Republic: Action in Support of National Reconciliation and Respect for Human Rights, submitted jointly with a host of partners, in French
- Sri Lanka: Persistence of Religiously Motivated Violence, Intimidation, and Discrimination, submitted jointly with the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka
- Algeria: Freedom of Religion or Belief (also available in French), submitted jointly with the Protestant Church of Algeria and other partners, and addressing namely Churches and Protestant institutions shut down by the government and the trials and arrests of Christian leaders since November 2017
- Sudan: Ongoing Imprisonment and Intimidation of Church Leaders, Confiscation and Destruction of Church Property, submitted jointly with Middle East Concern, and addressing recent demolition of church properties, unlawful confiscation and sale of church properties, and the arrest and harassment of church leaders
Visit their website for additional reports and written submissions to United Nations mechanisms.
Delivering oral statements at the Human Rights Council
In addition to reports and written submissions, the WEA delivers oral updates at the regular sessions of the Human Rights Council.
The following are some of the recent oral statements that are also available on WEA’s YouTube channel:
- Nepal, India and Sri Lanka: Updates on the situation of Freedom of Religion or Belief
- Sudan: Freedom of Religion or Belief – Violations and Opportunities (in Arabic)
- Cuba: No UPR recommendations challenged Cuba to improve in the area of Freedom or Religion of Belief
- WEA calls on the government of Iran to cease prosecution of Christians under false charges
Watch additional videos of WEA interventions at the Human Rights Council.