International Christian advocacy group visits US

(Photo: Facebook / Kiri Kankhwende,)

In the days after the U.S. State Department published its annual International Religious Freedom Report, representatives from the European offices of Christian Solidarity Worldwide met with U.S. government officials to discuss global religious freedom.

CSW, an international organization with offices around the world, advocates for religious freedom, working on policy with groups such as the United Nations and the European Union.

It also works with persecuted people at a grassroots level, issuing reports and advocating not just on systematic issues, but also individual cases.

"Our reports serve as a tool in our advocacy," said Kiri Kankhwende, CSW's London-based press officer. "And we also have recommendations for actors who are influential to the process."

Kankhwende said the countries of top concern to the group right now are Myanmar, Iran and Nigeria.

Since April, Myanmar has faced increased scrutiny by the international community for persecution against Muslims, including the recent adoption of a two-child limit rule in Muslim-majority townships.

State-sponsored – or at least state-sanctioned – violence against Muslims and Christians has also been problematic, as highlighted in International Religious Freedom Report.

Iran, Kankhwenede said, is an area of ongoing concern for CSW, but more so because of the upcoming presidential election in June.

Iran's last election in 2009 – which brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to his third and final term – was rife with violence and intimidation against those opposed to the Islamist regime.

Amnesty International called the post-election violence the worst violation of human rights Iran had seen in two decades.

Sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria in recent years has left hundreds dead and villages destroyed. As a result of the violence, earlier this month President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northern states.

"I wouldn't say it's the last throw of the dice," Kankhewende said, "but it's obviously very important, so we're monitoring that really closely."

CSW's ultimate goal is to bring and end to dictatorial regimes around the world. The group currently works in about 25 countries, but Kankhwende said the need is far greater than just those states.

Yet, she believes if every Christian were actively engaged, it could be transformative.

"We all have our part to play," she said. "CSW has its bit – we do advocacy, we do research – but every Christian can play their part. We can pray. We can do that wherever we are. Pray for people, pray for countries, pray for the persecutors as well – pray for their hearts to change."

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