February 13, 2020 | Aaron Mercer, IFA Contributing Writer
Persecutors are on notice. There is a new band of nations stepping up the fight for religious freedom.
During a gathering of global leaders in Washington, D.C., last summer, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced plans for an alliance of nation-states committed to the defense of religious liberty. President Donald Trump reinforced that plan during his visit to the United Nations in September. He declared, “Today, with one clear voice, the United States of America calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution, to stop the crimes against people of faith, release prisoners of conscience, repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief, protect the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed.”
You can thank President Trump for standing against religious persecution and standing for religious freedom. Click the button and follow the simple directions to send him an email.
Now the U.S. has made good on its promise. The evening before the National Prayer Breakfast, Pompeo hosted a dinner honoring the launch of an International Religious Freedom Alliance. Twenty-six nations are partnering with the U.S. in this new effort to promote and protect religious liberty, a right guaranteed not only in the U.S. Constitution but also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed by countries around the world.
Pompeo declared, “Egregious perpetrators of religious persecution have long operated with impunity. The Alliance will unify powerful nations and leverage their resources to stop bad actors and advocate for the persecuted, the defenseless, and the vulnerable. The threats to religious freedom are global. They require global participation and global solutions.”
Indeed, persecution is on the rise around the world. 8 out of 10 individuals live in places where their right to practice their faith is threatened or restricted. According to the ministry Open Doors USA, that includes more than 260 million Christians among whom 3,711 were unjustly arrested and 2,983 were killed for their faith in Christ last year.
North Korea is at the top of the list for places hostile to religion. However, perhaps one of the most powerful antagonists is China. Christians, Uighur Muslims, and Tibetan Buddhists are among minorities that communist China has significantly intensified pressure on in recent years. U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, one of the key architects of the new alliance, said last year, “China is at war with faith, but it is a war they will not win.”
At the dinner launching the alliance, Pompeo, too, recognized China and its concerted efforts against the goals of this new coalition. He told his colleagues, “We know several of you courageously pushed back against Chinese pressure by agreeing to be part of this alliance, and we thank you for that.”
Those joining in the International Religious Freedom Alliance with the U.S. are Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Gambia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Togo, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
The leaders of these nations need your prayers. As they commit time and treasure to defending freedom within and beyond their borders, they most certainly will face pressure to step back from the fight. Please pray for them. Please pray, too, for the alliance to grow with more leaders around the world stepping forward in strength and courage.
During a press call before the coalition’s launch, Brownback called it “an activist club of countries.” Amen. May their actions for liberty be great and truly fruitful.
Aaron Mercer is a Contributing Writer with two decades of experience in Washington, D.C.’s public policy arena and Christian associations. A seasoned strategist, he aids organizations with research, analysis, and writing services, and he reflects on faith, technology, and the public square. Connect with Aaron on LinkedIn and Twitter.