Rather than seeing an increase in religious tolerance, the past decade has witnessed growing government restrictions and hostility against religion worldwide, according to a report released by Pew Research Center last Summer. From Xinjiang, where predominantly Muslim Uighurs are held in torturous conditions by the Chinese government under the thin veil of ‘reeducation,’ to Africa, where Islamist terror groups like Boko Haram kidnaps and murders Christians, both state and rogue actors have escalated crushing religious repression worldwide. Across the globe, the situation faced by believers has grown dire, especially for Christians, who face persecution at “near-genocide levels” for professing salvation through Jesus Christ.
Fortunately, led by the United States, countries are coming together in defense of religious freedom. Two weeks ago, the U.S State Department announced the launch of the International Religious Freedom Alliance (IRFA,) which establishes a global task-force of countries with a shared commitment to religious freedom, and establishes measures to take action to protect those who are persecuted for their faiths. The 27 member-states span every continent except for Oceania. Among them are The United States, Poland, Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Israel, Senegal, and the United Kingdom, to name a few.
It will be exciting to see IRFA grow, develop, and work to defend religious liberty. Its leadership is certainly devoted to its success. The current U.S administration’s commitment to International Religious Freedom is well-known, . With the ascent of Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom, efforts against the global persecution of Christians have gained a powerful ally. During his first Christmas address, Johnson called to mind those who were spending the holiday in prison, and vowed that his newly formed government would “stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and will defend [their] right to practice [their] faith.” The Polish government, which many discount in international policy, has played a pivotal role in bringing the alliance together. Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, and its Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz have both been highly visible on the world stage in defense of religious liberty. At last year’s Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy, Czaputowicz stressed the importance of religious freedom to the development of democratic institutions across the globe. The deeply Catholic country also spearheaded a successful effort at the United Nations to declare August 22nd the ‘International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.’
IRFA has come relatively quickly, which is even more impressive and contributes to its magnitude as a success of several countries’ administrations. Little more than half a year after its announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the alliance has been formally assembled. Renewed attention to the traditional, Christian, and democratic roots of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has found a strong resource toward creating a new multilateralism. This multilateralism is strongly equipped to bolster human rights. Protecting religious freedom across the world is an excellent place to start, given the concerning backslide toward global religious repression.
To read more about the International Religious Freedom Alliance, its ‘Declaration of Principles’ can be found here.