Moscow Conference Highlights
Participants at a recent high-level religious freedom meeting in Moscow vowed to keep the plight of persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East and Africa in the international community spotlight.
FREEDOM FOCUS: Religious liberty proponents meet in Moscow to propose ways of keeping the
plight of persecuted religious minorities in the public eye.About 100 million Christians worldwide—mainly in the Middle East and parts of Africa—suffer persecution or are caught up in violent religious conflict, according to conference organizers.
The three-day International Conference on the Freedom of Religion and Discrimination against Christians began November 30, 2011, and brought together a diverse group of leaders from the Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Islamic communities. Topping the agenda was the growth of what some have called “Christianophobia” in many countries where dominant religions or ideologies exert significant political and social power.
Vasiliy Stolyar, public affairs and religious liberty director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Euro-Asia Division, said conference participants were united in their resolve to do more to alleviate the plight of religious minorities suffering persecution worldwide.
Discussions at the conference also focused on the impact of the so-called Arab Spring on the rights of religious minorities in countries that have experienced dramatic political change.
John Graz, secretary general of the International Religious Liberty Association, described the issues raised at the conference as a “significant and growing concern for religious liberty advocates.”
Graz said the IRLA has been tracking an upswing in social harassment and attacks against religious minorities in the region over the past year, including a rise in anti-Christian sentiment. He pointed also to United Nations reports that have tracked a steady exodus of Christians from Iraq and, more recently, Libya—a trend that indicates a significant sense of unease among minority religious groups.
“We urge governments around the world, along with international bodies such as the United Nations, to do everything in their power to ensure that religious freedom, as a fundamental human right, is both recognized and protected in these countries,” Graz said.
—reported by Bettina Krause/Adventist News Network