Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief in Review
By Matias Perttula
11/20/2020 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom alongside all of its side events has come to a close for the year 2020. The week was filled with a number of opportunities to engage in various dialogues surrounding persecution and the expansion of religious freedom in the global context. The ministerial itself in started out with a series of statements made by the governments in attendance mostly to reaffirm their commitment (or perceived) commitment to religious freedom and working toward facilitating the expansion of this freedom. The following day was filled with various panel discussions that covered the various aspects including national security and religious freedom and various other components.
Alongside the ministerial, various NGOs and governments hosted various side events that further expanded on the topic and held a dialogue that was much more open and critical of various governments and dissected the issues in greater depth. Governments like India and China were heavily criticized and their atrocities against their own citizens were highlighted in great detail. China’s mass surveillance and their slave labor/internment camps filled with innocent Uyghur Muslims were covered heavily as was their systemic persecution of Christians and their house churches. India’s systemic persecution of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs was also covered in various forms as the situation for these religious minorities continued to worsen throughout 2020. For Christians the cases of persecution continued an upward trajectory in the hundreds of verified cases (the actual number is more than likely in the thousands). Church closures, harassment, violence, murder and other atrocities were recorded in incidents. The Muslim community also faced significant difficulties as the citizenship amendment act and the registry rolled out targeting Muslim communities as well as the building of concentration camps in the state of Assam. The situation continued a down a trajectory of hate fueled by radical Hindu nationalism and propelled by the BJP and the RSS.
The Ministerial also covered some aspects of religious intolerance growing in Europe where Jews have been under growing discrimination. Also, the past years have shown significant growth in church desecration – especially in France where thousands of churches have been desecrated (this was not covered as heavily as it should have been).
The Ministerial was held in a virtual format due to the threats produced by Coronavirus. The format worked well over all and allowed for an efficient use of time, however, it took away from the networking aspect that usually accompanies events of this scale.
In review, the ministerial was accomplished, and it is hoped that it will continue to next year – potentially in Brazil.
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.