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In January 2002, a group of ambassadors, religious liberty experts, members of parliament and members of the media met in Berlin, Germany. The multinational gathering founded the First Step Forum to begin work on April 1 is a new initiative to monitor religious and human rights abuses worldwide with the goal of addressing potential problems before they become major events.

Johan Candelin, director of the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission and founding member said, "This is a great day for people suffering from religious liberty abuses. For the first time high level members of Parliament, lawyers and mass media experts have come together to coordinate a united effort on behalf of human and religious rights."

The Forum is co-chaired by Mrs. Eija-Riita Korhola, Member of the European Parliament, Brussels and Ambassador Robert A. Seiple, Former US Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom. Both are political advisors to the WEA Religious Liberty Commission.

The Secretariats for the First Step Forum are located in New York, under the direction of Ambassador Slavi Pachovki, former Bulgarian United Nations Ambassador and under the direction of Johan Candelin at an office in the Parliament of Finland. Candelin also serves as special advisor to a large number of Members of Parliament. The full Forum will meet annually but is in weekly contact.

This unique partnership is in response to a vision that grew out of the work of the WEA Religious Liberty Commission. The partnership brings together parliamentarians from Finland, Sweden, Germany, Holland and Switzerland, legal representation by Samuel E. Ericsson, Esq., President of Advocates International, and the media expertise of David Aikman, former Bureau Chief for Time Magazine in Beijing and Jerusalem, Tim Dean, former Senior Editor of BBC World, and Mr. Stig Kankkonen, a chief editor in Finland.

Religious freedom is guaranteed by Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. The First Step Forum will monitor disinformation campaigns and cases of discrimination, bringing them to the attention of governments and media with the intention of being a voice for people who have no voice.

The Forum name comes from a Chinese proverb that says that a journey of 10,000 miles begins with one step.

About World Evangelical Alliance
World Evangelical Alliance seeks to see the world reached for Christ. The transforming Christian presence of a discipled nation of churches and people brings growing righteousness, increasing justice, decreasing poverty, and the sharing of resources to meet human needs. Through its network of 115 national and regional evangelical fellowships, WEA represents 160 million evangelicals worldwide.

World Evangelical Alliance

P.O. Box 1839 Edmonds, WA 98020
Phone: +1 (425) 778-5513 Fax: +1 (425) 774-7803
E-Mail: [email protected] www.worldevangelical.org

DATE: April 5, 2002
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Johan Candelin +358-40-514-7611