The Ongoing Success of the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom or Belief
By Matias Perttula
10/29/2020 Poland (International Christian Concern) – As nations are drawing up plans to participate in the third annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom or Belief, hosted virtually by the government of Poland, more and more nations are beginning to take note of the movement and are developing an understanding that the US and many of its allies mean business when it comes to religious freedom.
Great power politics has been driven by geopolitical ambitions and influence for years and human rights have unfortunately become less and less important in national security pursuits. Too often human rights are leveraged when convenient rather than serving as the lead in diplomatic discussions. That is now changing. The ministerial has place the core human right at the front and center US foreign policy leadership. There is now a greater demand for international religious freedom than ever before because this event; participating activists and experts have given a prominent voice to those who have suffered for decades under the authoritarian and discriminatory governments, many of which hold a “Country of Particular Concern” designation from US Department of State. The ongoing ministerial has created a new standard for religious freedom by highlighting these atrocities in a very public capacity. The event hosts victims from these countries, who now have a strong voice that is forcing persecuting governments to confront these problems.
The ministerial is a public pressure platform that pushes countries in a clear way to air out the issues that have for too long been swept under the rug. More and more diplomats and policymakers are being faced with the realities of persecution and what the lack of religious freedom means for people around the world. Much of the western hemisphere does not appreciate religious freedom as much as they should, or they do not realize the consequences that come with the lack of this freedom for people of faith around the world. The West is in an increasingly secular world where less and less and importance is given to these issues and more emphasis is placed elsewhere. The reality for religious minorities in other countries is far different; being a Christian can be a choice between life and death, prosperity and poverty, opportunity and marginalization, and so much more.
The ministerial is powerful event started by the Trump administration that has helped solidify this issue as a core component in the foreign policy apparatus of the United States.
The rest of the West needs to wake up to this reality and the ministerial is serving as that wake up call. The West must listen and ensure that religious freedom remains a core freedom that all humanity should enjoy as the fundamental human right, from which all other rights flow. Countries that persecute their religious minorities no longer can brush these issues under the rug, but are forced to acknowledge and deal with their problem.
Matias Perttula serves as the Advocacy Director for International Christian Concern where he leads the government relations efforts to mobilize the US government to address issues of persecution in countries where religious minorities are oppressed and the freedom of religion is in decline.