International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance Addresses Rising Christian Persecution Worldwide

June 6, 2023

Paul Marshall, RFI’s South and Southeast Asia Director, wrote an article this week for Religion Unplugged titled, “IRFBA’s Bold Statement Addresses Rising Christian Persecution Worldwide.” Marshall writes:

The International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance earlier this month released a significant statement on the current worldwide persecution of Christians. It’s essence: Religious freedom is still comparatively neglected as a human right, and the ongoing persecution of Christians is relatively unknown.

In the summer of 2018, the then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo organized a “ministerial” in Washington, D.C., on religious freedom. “Ministerial” is an unusual word. It refers to a high-level conference of senior government officials that is not primarily a diplomatic negotiation intended to produce a common policy, nor simply a conference. It is an unusual blend of the two, which allows diplomatic flexibility and possibility.

This first gathering was a small affair, arranged on short notice. The second, in July 2019, drew 1,000 invitees, and invitations had to be closed off months in advance. It was the largest human rights conference ever convened by the State Department. The crowds had to be accommodated in massive tents in the inner courtyards at Foggy Bottom. It drew people from over 100 countries, with dozens of cabinet- and ambassadorial-level representatives. 

One concern with major events like this is that they might produce short-term highs but without much long-term effect. Yet, despite COVID derailing the possibility of any large gathering for some years, these ministerials continued — with the next one scheduled for Prague in November. There are also ongoing regional gatherings, including in Muslim countries.

This means that there are now governmental and intergovernmental apparatuses focused on religious freedom whose work is leavened by numerous nongovernmental organizations working across regional, national and religious boundaries.

Perhaps most importantly, the ministerials have created an international governmental alliance — the Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance. It is “a network of like-minded countries fully committed to advancing freedom of religion or belief around the world.”

Read the full article: “IRFBA’s Bold Statement Addresses Rising Christian Persecution Worldwide.”