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WEA Advocating at the UN for Religious Freedom

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23 January 2020


Advocating at the UN for Religious Freedom in Algeria, Iran, Nepal, India and Italy

Dear friends,

The Geneva Liaison Office of the World Evangelical Alliance exists to strengthen the voice of the more than 600 million evangelicals worldwide in order to achieve positive structural changes in their countries, improving rule of law, freedom of conscience and of religion, minority rights, social justice and good governance.

As the people of God pursue the Great Commission, we ask for your prayers so that the Geneva Liaison Office can accompany national evangelical alliances facing pressure, discrimination and persecution, as well as those operating under weak rule of law, in securing more favorable conditions for their respective ministries. 

Please pray for our office’s team Michael Mutzner, Wissam al-Saliby and Albert Hengelaar, to know how to navigate U.N. institutions and circles, and the diplomatic missions of nations that are part of the U.N., and to seize the opportunities that will benefit evangelical churches all over the world.

In this newsletter, we provide an update on recent activities of the office.

Universal Periodic Review: Focus on Italy and Iran

In November 2019, Italy and Iran were among 14 countries undergoing their Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR is a peer-review process where countries make recommendations to those undergoing review, aimed at furthering the human rights situation in those countries.

In preparation for Iran’s UPR session, on 10 October 2019, Dabrina Bet Tamraz (photo) spoke on behalf of the WEA and of Christian Solidarity Worldwide on a panel of civil society organizations, presenting the situation of Freedom of Religion in Iran to a large audience of diplomats of countries would be challenging Iran on its human rights record the following month. After sharing her personal story, Ms. Bet Tamraz described the situation of Christians in Iran, including converts to Christianity, as well as the situation of Baha’is. Read the statement.

In addition, during her visit to Geneva, we organized for Ms. Bet Tamraz bilateral meetings with human rights diplomats from a dozen countries during which she was able to inform them of the situation of religious freedom in Iran.

We are grateful for the many countries who echoed WEA’s appeal and made recommendations to Iran during its UPR session in November to protect and respect the right to freedom of religion or belief. We cite, inter alia, the Netherlands’ recommendation to Iran to “amend Article 13 of the Iranian Constitution to ensure that all religious minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Christian converts, Jews, non-believers, Zoroastrians and the Baha'i in the country are recognized and able to fully enjoy the right to freedom of religion and belief,” and Norway’s recommendation to “ensure the freedom of religion and belief for minorities such as the Bahai's and Christian converts, by adopting concrete measures to eliminate discrimination and enhance protection.”

In October, we also organized the visit to Geneva of the president of the Italian Evangelical Alliance, Giacomo Ciccone, together with the pastor of the Punto Luce Church, Michael Schaafsma, and a lawyer. They attended a meeting with civil society organizations organized by the Italian diplomatic mission with the President of the Interministerial Committee for Human Rights of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Pastors Schaafsma and Ciccone and the lawyer explained how the administrative measures ordering the closure of the premises of the Punto Luce Church by the Municipality of San Giuliano Milanese are a violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief. For more information on this case, see the following article on Evangelical Focus website: Italian evangelicals denounce lack of religious freedom.

Keeping the Human Rights Council abreast of Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Human Rights Council’s 42nd session during three weeks in September was an opportunity to highlight recent challenges to the right to freedom of religion or belief and to shed light on increasing restrictions on Christians and other religious minorities in several countries.

To read more click here ...