27 nations join in Alliance to Protect Religious Freedom

Survivors of Religious Persecution participating In the 2019 Ministerial To Advance Religious Freedom, sponsored by the US State Department

On February 5, 2020, Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, The Gambia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Togo, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom, joined the United States to create the first-of-its-kind International Religious Freedom Alliance.

Together, the nations have pledged to uphold the Declaration of Principles, solidifying a collective commitment to object and oppose, publicly and privately, all abuses or violations of religious freedom.

The formation of the Alliance marks the first time in history an international coalition has come together at a national leadership level to push the issue of religious freedom forward around the world. 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.

The Alliance is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, dedicated to working for the right of every man and woman to believe in whatever they wish, to change faith, or hold no faith if their conscience dictates.

Principles of Action by the Alliance

The Alliance is founded upon the international principle of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), drawn from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981 UN Declaration), and other documents like the EU Guidelines on FoRB and the OSCE Guidelines on FoRB and Security.

Therefore, action to promote freedom of religion or belief is based on the principle that human rights are universal, interdependent and interrelated. The actions of the Alliance are intended to complement existing work to promote freedom of religion or belief within the United Nations and other competent multilateral and regional organizations.

I. Reactive Measures

a. Alliance members are committed to condemning violence (and incitement of violence) against persons based on religion or belief and against religious sites, either by state or by non-state actors, and demanding perpetrators be held to account.

b. Alliance members are committed to challenging persistent violations and abuses of the right to manifest one’s religion or belief, including abuses of the rights listed in the 1981 UN Declaration, the use of blasphemy laws and the denial of registration to religious or non-religious groups.

c. Alliance members are committed to opposing restrictions on the freedom to change one’s religion or belief, or to hold no belief, and to demonstrating solidarity with person or persons victimised by such restrictions.

d. Alliance members are committed to advocating on behalf of individuals who are imprisoned or in other ways persecuted on account of their religion or belief and promoting accountability against perpetrators.

e. Alliance members are committed to rejecting discrimination on account of religion or belief in access to justice, education, housing, or employment, and to promoting measures to address such discrimination.

II. Proactive Measures

a. Alliance members are committed to promoting respect for diversity, tolerance and inclusion consistent with the Istanbul Process.

b. Alliance members are committed to supporting protection for religious or belief sites from violence.

c. Alliance members are committed to supporting and engaging with civil society, including religious and belief communities, and religious leaders, and to promoting cross-boundary and multi-disciplinary networking of those groups and individuals.

d. Alliance members are committed to promoting literacy on freedom of religion or belief and relevant human rights frameworks.

e. Alliance members are committed to promoting freedom of religion or belief together with other human rights, such as freedom of expression.