World Evangelical Alliance uses UN in Geneva to advocate for freedom of religion

(Photo: © Peter Kenny)Globe sculpture viewed from the United Nations in Geneva, 2018

Discrimination, restrictions on the right to freedom of religion or belief, and religiously motivated violence are on the rise and the World Evangelical Alliance is taking it to the United Nations in Geneva.


These has become, and have always been, the norm in the life and witness of the Church in most parts of the world today WEA said in a statement on Dec. 5.

The organization which prides itself as a voice for over 600 million evangelical Christians in the world said it is responding to the ever-increasing threats to religious liberty.

"Inspired by Proverbs 31:8-9, the WEA Geneva Liaison Office began to actively engage the United Nations Human Rights mechanisms in 2012 in defense of human rights, and predominately, the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief," said WEA.

The aim of the office is to foster structural changes in countries where our national Evangelical Alliances work, to strengthen the rule of law, to advance the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief, and ultimately, to enable an environment for a more vibrant Christian witness.

The Geneva-based World Council of Churches which represents mainly many hundreds of millions of Anglicans, Orthodox Christians and Protestants globally as well as some Evangelicals and Pentecostals has long been viewed as the Christian body engaging with the United Nations along with the Vatican.

WEA said that now its Geneva Liaison Office has a team of three members.

They are Albert Hengelaar, Advocacy Officer, from the Netherlands, Michael Mutzner, WEA United Nations representative in Geneva, from Switzerland, and Wissam al-Saliby, Advocacy Officer, from Lebanon.


"As surprising as it may seem, the WEA Geneva Liaison Office is the only evangelical representative body advocating for religious freedom on behalf of the more than 600 million evangelicals at the UN in Geneva," said WEA's statement.

"And regularly, States that persecute or discriminate against religious minorities have to defend their human rights record at the UN's Human Rights Council. By relaying the voices of national Evangelical Alliances, the WEA has a unique contribution to bring to the conversation."

WEA cited Wissam al-Saliby reflecting on what evangelical engagement with the United Nations means when it comes to advocacy for religious freedom. He explained how WEA's voice can be of influence in this "unique context."

The main tool available is to submit reports to various Geneva-based UN Human Rights mechanisms including the regular Human Rights Council sessions, the Universal Periodic Review, the Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

These reports would relay the information provided by WEA member Alliances and have long been used by Christian groups such as the Vatican, the WCC and the Lutheran World Federation.

WEA cited examples of reports submitted in 2018:

Malaysia: Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Safety of the Christian Minority, addressing the use of the word "Allah" by Christians, the wellbeing and safety of all religious workers, and rising hostility against Christians

Bhutan: Freedom of Religion or Belief, addresses ongoing criminalization of religious "coercion or inducement," the registration of religious organizations and discrimination against Christians

Central African Republic: Action in Support of National Reconciliation and Respect for Human Rights, submitted jointly with a host of partners, in French

Sri Lanka: Persistence of Religiously Motivated Violence, Intimidation, and Discrimination, submitted jointly with the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka

Algeria: Freedom of Religion or Belief submitted jointly with the Protestant Church of Algeria and other partners, and addressing namely Churches and protestant institutions shut down by the government and the trials and arrests of Christian leaders since November 2017

Sudan: Ongoing Imprisonment and Intimidation of Church Leaders, Confiscation and Destruction of Church Property, submitted jointly with Middle East Concern, and addressing recent demolition of church properties, unlawful confiscation and sale of church properties, and the arrest and harassment of church leaders.

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