As members, friends, and observers of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, we uphold the right of all people to freedom of religion or belief and the ability of people to practise their religion and live their lives free from fear and discrimination. We recognise the contribution of Christians to the culture, values, security, and prosperity of states. They should never have to fear for their personal safety or the safety of their religious institutions.
We note with grave concern that reports of intolerance and harassment against Christians around the world is increasing and more widespread.
We call for renewed efforts to protect the right of all Christians to freedom of religion or belief, to live without fear of harm or reprisal, including through protection of churches and places of Christian worship from attack, and for governments to ensure that individuals identifying as Christians are able to publicly identify and worship.
Members of Christian communities, or those wishing to join, face limitations on their right to freedom of religion or belief in every world region. In conflict and insecure environments they have suffered from repeated terrorist and violent attacks by mobs and extremists. When members of marginalised communities are forced to flee homes – and sometimes their countries – as a result, historic diversity is lost.
We note regular reports regarding the experiences of Christian women and girls in many parts of the world. Christian women and girls often face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination due both to their gender and religious belief as well as their identity and socio-economic status. They face marginalisation, discrimination, abduction and gender-based violence, including forced conversion, sexual enslavement, forced marriage, and rape.
In many circumstances, appeals for government protection or accountability for cases of abduction, forced conversion, forced marriage and rape go unheeded, promoting a culture of impunity, which can lead to further attacks.
We note that some governments and officials continue to employ blasphemy, apostasy and other laws to punish individuals wishing to join Christian and other religious or belief communities through conversion or membership. Such laws severely impinge upon the right of everyone, everywhere to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. In addition, discriminatory registration systems regularly deny Christian groups equal standing with other faiths in some contexts, severely hindering the ability of communities of believers to gather for worship or study.
We note particularly that various Christian expressions and traditions enter an extended period of holy days, from Christmas through Easter.
- Reiterate that Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides for right of individuals to freedom of thought and conscience, and as part of that right, to freely have or adopt a religion or belief of one’s choice without coercion.
- Call for renewed efforts to protect individuals, churches and other places of worship from attack, and for states to permit individuals identifying as Christians to celebrate holy days without fear of harm or reprisal.
- Call upon relevant states, in consultation with religious leaders and communities, to provide additional security for churches and other places of Christian worship during their holy season from Christmas through Easter, so as to protect the increased number of worshipers in attendance.
- Call upon governments to effectively ensure equal rights for individuals belonging to Christian churches and communities.
- Call upon governments to repeal blasphemy laws, as such laws are often used as a pretext to justify vigilantism or mob violence in the name of religion or as a pretext to pursue retribution related to personal grievances and to release any individuals jailed for these so-called crimes;
- Publicly support protection of the right to worship, either alone or in community with others, in public or private, and express concern about registration systems that unduly burden this right.
- Publicly support protection of the right to freedom of expression and to manifest one’s religion or belief.
- Reiterate the urgent need to protect women and girls from abduction, forced conversions, and gender-based violence, including sexual enslavement under cover of marriage. All women and girls should have equal access to justice, including perpetrator accountability and police protection.
Signatories: Armenia, Australia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Malta, Order of Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States