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US Ambassador Brownback: 80 per cent live in a “religiously restricted atmosphere”

Summary

  • UN panel discussion on global religious freedom strategies
  • US religious freedom ambassador speaks at UN for the first time

NEW YORK (4 March 2019) – On Friday, the Non-Governmental Organizations Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations hosted a first-time event on the status of global religious freedom.

“Eighty per cent of the world’s population lives in a religiously restricted atmosphere. Eighty per cent of the world is religious. How can we tolerate this continuing situation? We need a global movement of religious freedom. The good news: one has started, and it’s starting here today. We can’t just keep talking. We have to do something and it has to have carrots and teeth associated with it,” said Ambassador Brownback, speaking at the United Nations for the first time and building on the United States’ first annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which took place in July 2018.

Kelsey Zorzi, President of the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom at ADF international co-hosted the event. “Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. We are glad to host this event and broaden the discussion on this pressing issue. There has been a global increase in the disregard for the fundamental right to religious freedom in recent years, including harassment, violence, and even genocide. It is vital that the international community begins to actively counter this. This has to start with each state ensuring that their laws, as well as social practices, are in line with their commitments to religious freedom under international law,” said Zorzi.

There has been a global increase in the disregard for the fundamental right to religious freedom in recent years, including harassment, violence, and even genocide. It is vital that the international community begins to actively counter this.

Global threats to religious freedom remain severe

“Because of the attacks the world has witnessed in recent years against various groups of religious believers, the protection of the right to religious freedom must be one of the most urgent responsibilities of the international community,” said Monsignor Tomasz Grysa on behalf of Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

High-ranking international leaders on religious freedom spoke at the event including the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback; Hungarian Ministerial Commissioner and Member of the National Assembly of Hungary, Dr Hajnalka Juhász; Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria; and Religious Freedom Institute President Dr Thomas Farr.

The discussion shed light on the current global threat to religious freedom and the lack of commitment of the United Nations to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This historic event initiated discussions about restrictions on religious freedom in the Middle East, recent persecution of religious groups in Nigeria, and governmental and civil society-led efforts currently underway. The experts on religious freedom deliberated over possible plans for the future of religious freedom through the work of the UN and concluded that we are experiencing a time of widespread, severe threats to religious freedom and that responding to these threats will take concerted efforts from a variety of actors across multiple sectors.

Next steps for the promotion of international religious freedom presented

The leaders and advocates participating in the panel concluded that the United Nations should engage in action to protect freedom of religion on a global level once more. Attendees observed growing momentum around religious freedom advocacy at the United Nations.

“This event comes at a crucial time as little has been done to uphold religious freedom. We have documented these shortcomings in the white paper, ‘The UN’s Failure to Promote and Protect Religious Freedom’. It is time the UN and individual nations begin to act on their commitments under international law and protect the fundamental freedoms of religious minorities,” commented Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International.

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