World Congress Adopts "Statement of Concern" on Religious Freedom Violations

June 14, 2002. Manila, Philippines ... [IRLA News] The World Congress on religious freedom concluded today with an insistence that violations of religious rights are unacceptable, and specifically named some of the worst offenders.

"We have heard many speeches and fine words during this World Congress on religious freedom," commented Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, communication director for the organizers, the International Religious Liberty Association. "But in order to be relevant we need to come out and clearly condemn the worst abuses, pointing to those countries where intolerance and persecution are hurting people's lives and work, even to the point of violence and death. Such actions have no place in today's world and should be condemned by all nations, since religious extremism and intolerance is the greatest threat facing humanity."

The documents identifies Sudan, North Korea, and some states in India as "among the most serious violators of religious freedom," and adds that "of great concern, particularly for this Congress held in the Philippines, are the many reports of mistreatment and judicial penalties enforced against guest workers of religious minorities in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States."

Also cited are China, for its persecution of Christian house churches, Tibetan Buddhists, Muslims, and the Falun Gong; Turkmenistan for its systematic intimidation and harassment of religious minorities and the destruction of houses of worship; Belarus for a proposed highly restrictive religion law; the conflict in Indonesia between Christian and Muslim communities; local persecution of protestant Christians in Mexico, and the refusal of conscientious objection status in South Korea.

The document concludes: "the participants in the Congress express their sympathy, compassion, and solidarity with the victims of religious discrimination, intolerance and persecution, and reaffirms the International Religious Liberty Association's commitment to cooperate with the foregoing governments in finding solutions to these lamentable problems."

The full document is available at www.irla.org.