WEA Geneva Office Special: Giving Thanks for Advocacy Developments in Nepal, Libya and Spain

General June 7, 2021

WEA Geneva Liaison Office

June 2021 Newsletter

Dear friends,

In our engagements with the United Nations human rights bodies in Geneva, the diplomatic circles and global forums we represent the voice of our Evangelical Alliances. As their advocates in our many countries, we take up their issues of concern and human rights violations and relay to relevant UN institutions. During the past year, we submitted over 50 reports and made 20 statements at the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of our members in more than 25 countries. We listed a few of our reports and statements further below.

Speaking up on behalf of believers who face discrimination, persecution or other forms of injustice is a long-term effort that requires coordination, commitment and perseverance to be able to reap its fruits. We are grateful for the tangible progress that God has allowed in 2020, including in countries like Libya, Spain and Nepal:

– In December 2020, based on our reporting the UN Human Rights Committee for the first time referred to the issue of religious freedom in Libya, explicitly mentioning Christians, when reviewing Libya’s compliance with its commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This is an important development raising the profile of persecution and mistreatment of Christians against the background of broader political instability and neglect for the human rights in Libya. 

– During Spain’s Universal Periodic Review in January 2020, the States brought up with the Spanish government the two issues raised exclusively in our report. These were threats of Evangelical churches closures in Catalonia due to drastic safety regulations targeting all non-Catholic congregations and the situation of retired pastors deprived of pension scheme. We were joyful to find out that our reporting led to the Spanish government decision to sort the situation with non-payment of pensions to retired pastors. And local authorities of Catalonia decided to soften the safety regulations, so that local Evangelical churches would no longer fear closure.

– In November 2020, jointly with Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Salvation Army, we held a virtual meeting on Religious Freedom and on Human Trafficking in Nepal, where church and ministries leaders from Nepal briefed with diplomats from 7 countries. In January 2021, our reporting, advocacy and the virtual meeting led several countries to relay WEA human rights recommendations to Nepal during the Universal Periodic Review. In addition to raising awareness on the situation in Nepal, our efforts sent an unequivocal message to Nepalese authorities that harassment and detention of pastors needs to stop.

We live in a world where challenges to human rights and freedoms are entrenched and long-standing. Oftentimes, these challenges are invisible from an outsider’s view due to the intimidating environment on the ground or to ignorance of global advocacy opportunities, which prevent local voices from being heard. We are sensitive to the confidentiality that needs be observed in most of such cases and nurture the trust we have been able to develop with our local alliances and partner organizations that raise with us the acute human rights violations and security challenges they face. We are grateful for the opportunity to positively affect lives and to assist the local churches in their public witness through our daily work in Geneva and beyond, which is confirmed by the feedback we receive from our member Alliances and believers on the ground. For instance, the Secretary General of one of WEA member Alliance’s shared recently: “Our government projects a military and authoritarian image inside the country, and a civil and republican image outside of our country. Know my brother that if it were not for the international pressure that has been exerted on this regime for a long time, especially since the closure of the most important evangelical churches, today we would all be in prison!”

Indeed, for many of our members, our presence and voice in Geneva and in international circles provides them with a level of protection. In cases where Christians are imprisoned and ask us to speak up on their behalf, we have met with their respective ambassadors in Geneva, briefed in private the UN and other countries’ ambassadors on these cases of imprisonment, and, if cases remained unresolved, we have spoken up publicly at the Human Rights Council and in other forums.

Furthermore, our work has broader inter-denominational impact when providing support to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Ahmed Shaheed, who is an independent expert with the UN mandate to promote religious freedom across the globe. Here is what Mr. Shaheed said about our team’s contribution in one of his recent interviews: “I am a one-man operation, and I rely on civil society to be the eyes and ears for my mandate and to help communicate with people on the ground. [WEA’s Geneva team members] add value to my work and increase my capacity.”

We are grateful for your ongoing prayers and support that allow us to play this important role on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ. If you feel called to partner with us, support our engagement with the United Nations and strengthen Evangelical unity, please contact us at [email protected]

Blessings,

Michael Mutzner

Permanent Representative at the UN in Geneva

World Evangelical Alliance 

Our UN Geneva team in the field 

Our Advocacy with the UN Human Rights Bodies in October 2020 – May 2021 included:

• UN Human Rights Council: two written statements on Algeria and India; and 19 oral statements covering human rights issues across 14 countries: Algeria, Central African Republic, India, Libya, Malawi, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Sweden, Turkey, Zimbabwe;

• UN Human Rights Committee: four country reports on Nepal, North Korea, Turkey and France;

• UN Universal Periodic Review: two reports on Sudan and Greece; and three briefings on Maldives, Libya and Malawi.

With our new Research and Advocacy Officer from Ukraine, Kateryna Shynkaruk

Working with the Human Rights Council

Zimbabwe | Oral statement calling on the government for a socially inclusive dialogue to address the current crisis economic, healthcare and humanitarian crisis, 15 September 2020

Syria | Oral statement addressed to the international community regarding the negative economic, social and humanitarian impact of unilateral coercive measures in Syria, 21 September 2020

Turkey | Oral statement calling on Turkey to review its decisions to effectively expel and ban the 60 expatriate Protestant church members and allow for a fair revision of the facts behind such decisions, 5 October 2020

Sweden | Oral statement calling on Sweden to protect asylum-seekers and allow for conscientious objection to abortions, 5 October, 2020

Pakistan | Oral statement calling on the government to protect underage girls belonging to religious minorities from abduction and forced marriages, 5 October, 2020

Nepal | Oral statement calling on the government to enact legislation for church registration, 5 October, 2020

Minorities | Oral statement on diversity, the well-being of minorities and religious freedom, 6 October, 2020

Sudan | Oral statement calling on the government for further reforms to ensure full respect of the right to freedom of religion, 8 October 2020

Central African Republic | Oral statement in French calling to intensify efforts to achieve peace and counter impunity, 8 October 2020

India | Joint written statement with Evangelical Fellowship of India on deteriorating human rights situation and incitement to religious violence through anti-conversion laws in 2020 in India, submitted ahead of the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, 3 February 2021

Algeria | Joint written statement with the Middle East Concern and Protestant Church of Algeria on the government’s forced closure of Protestant churches, denying a pathway to legal recognition of churches, and the arbitrary application of COVID-19 measures, submitted ahead of the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, 3 February 2021

Algerian Police Closing a Church in Tizi-Ouzou region in October 2019

Syria | Oral statement calling on the international community to immediate action for permanent ceasefire and response to humanitarian crisis, 11 March, 2021. Watch the video

Syria | Joint oral statement on unilateral coercive measures hampering the ability of NGOs and Church-based organizations to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria, submitted with Caritas Internationalis, the World Council of Churches, and other Christian organizations, 15 March, 2021. Watch the video

India & Sri Lanka | Oral statement on hate speech being used as a tool to target religious minorities in India and Sri Lanka and urging States to take pro-active measures to address this situation, 15 March, 2021. Watch the video

Algeria | Joint oral statement on the ongoing closure of Protestant churches in Algeria, submitted with the World Council of Churches and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 15 March, 2021. Watch the video

Watch the video of the Algerian ambassador’s response to our statement.

India & Sri Lanka | Oral statement on COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating religiously-motivated stigmatization and violence, providing examples form India and Sri Lanka, 16 March, 2021. Watch the video

Malawi | Oral statement welcoming the current anti-trafficking measures and calling on the Malawi’s government to continue the efforts to counter human trafficking, 16 March, 2021. Watch the video

Maldives | Oral statement calling on the government of Maldives to ensure respect for the right to have or adopt a religion of one’s choice, 16 March, 2021. Watch the video

Libya | Oral statement calling on the government of Libya to recognize the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief in line with Article 18 of the ICCPR, 16 March, 2021. Watch the video

Anti-Muslim hatred | Oral statement providing good examples of inter-faith solidarity by WEA members, and their standing up against discrimination, exclusion and scapegoating, 17 March, 2021. Watch the video

Central African Republic | Joint oral statement (in French) calling on the government to intensify peace process and include thereto Interfaith Platform leaders, submitted with Caritas Internationalis, 19 March, 2021. Watch the video

Working with the Human Rights Committee

Nepal | Report on the situation of freedom of religion or belief, submitted jointly with the World Council of Churches, Baptist World Alliance, Nepal Christian Society and National Churches Fellowship of Nepal, 5 January, 2021

North Korea | Report on the situation of human rights, such as the right to life, religious freedom, freedom of movement, liberty and security of person, discrimination, the right to fair trial, treatment of prisoners and other detainees and prohibition of torture and degrading treatment, 5 January, 2021

France | Report on freedom of religion or belief, submitted jointly with the National Council of Evangelicals and the European Evangelical Alliance, 6 May, 2021

Turkey | Report on freedom of religion or belief, submitted jointly with the Turkey Association of Protestant Churches, European Evangelical Alliance and Middle East Concern, 7 May, 2021

Contributing to the Universal Periodic Review

Maldives | UPR 36 pre-session briefing on religious freedom and the right to manifest one’s religion or beliefs in Maldives, 23 October 2020

Libya | UPR 36 pre-session briefing addressing religious freedom and the penalties for apostasy and blasphemy in Libya, 23 October 2020

Malawi | UPR 36 pre-session briefing addressing human trafficking issues jointly with the Salvation Army, 23 October 2020

Sudan | Joint report on Freedom of Religion and Belief and Women’s Rights in Sudan, submitted with Open Doors International and Middle East Concern ahead of the UPR 39th session, 25 March 2021

Greece | Joint report on Freedom of Religion and Belief in Greece, submitted with the European Evangelical Alliance and the Greek Evangelical Alliance ahead of the UPR 39th session, 25 March 2021

WEA Geneva Liaison Office in the Media

Christianity Today | ‘Water on a Stone’: UN Expert on the Hard Work of Religious Freedom,    16 November, 2020

Christianity Today | Trump and Biden Disagree on Sanctions. So Do Evangelicals Outside the U.S., 14 January, 2021

Christianity Today | What Would Nehemiah Do? 26 January, 2021

Lausanne Conversation | Advocating for persecuted Christians in a way that reinforces our Christian witness, 28 January, 2021

Evangelical Focus | WEA denounces closure of Algerian churches and pressure on Protestant leaders, 12 February, 2021

Christianity Today | Who Will Save Algeria’s Closed Churches: the UN, US, or Hirak? 22 February, 2021

Christianity Today | Iraq’s Evangelicals Use Pope Francis’s Visit to Press for Equality, 5 March, 2021

Evangelical Focus | WEA calls on Algerian government “to set a positive example in dealing with its religious minorities, 19 March, 2021

Arab Baptist Theological Seminary Blog | Heavy Toll of Sanctions on Syria Raises Questions of Morality and Justice, 25 March, 2021

Partner with Us!

The WEA Geneva Liaison Office needs to increase capacity to respond to the requests for advocacy from our constituency. In 2022-2024, we are aiming to recruit two more staff, an information and communication officer, and a research and advocacy officer. Whether it’s a gift of $20, $200, $2,000 or more – your gift will allow us to pursue our work with greater impact and sustainability. Make a donation here.

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