RLP News

RLP Calls for Increased Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka

Religious liberty organizations united under the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) have released a statement on the church in Sri Lanka, calling for official recognition of Sri Lanka's evangelical community as represented by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL). The group celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and is part of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), a group representing 600 million evangelicals worldwide.

“This statement is significant as it is an expression of concern by the global Christian community on issues of rights, justice and equality of all citizens of Sri Lanka,” says Godfrey Yogarajah, Executive Director of the WEA Religious Liberty Commission. “As a nation emerging from civil war and progressing towards peace, stability, good governance and economic development, Sri Lanka stands at an important juncture in her history and it is essential that all communities are treated equally and able to live in an environment that is conducive to the fullest and unhindered enjoyment of their fundamental freedoms.”

Called the Colombo Statement, it calls on the worldwide church to pray “against the continued violent attacks on clergy and places of Christian worship,” and that “all religious communities will enjoy the Constitutional guarantees on religious freedom.” Download the statement here: http://www.rlpartnership.org/downloads/statements/RLP%20Colombo%20Statement%202012-06.pdf

“After 30 years of internal unrest in Sri Lanka we believe the country now needs to address the very important issue of religious freedom,” said Mervyn Thomas, Chairman of the RLP and CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, UK.  “We are concerned about the forced closure of churches by local authorities and violent attacks on clergy and churches,” he says. “We are calling on Christians everywhere to pray the Sri Lankan government will move to stop these unacceptable actions and bring in measures to guarantee real religious freedom for all.”

According to the statement, the Religious Liberty Partnership commits “to work toward the full realization of the religious rights of all Sri Lankans,” and “to stand in solidarity with the evangelical Christian community as they seek to have equal rights alongside other religious constituencies in Sri Lanka.”

Yogarajah, leader of the NCEASL, says that the statement is designed to ignite action. “We pray that this united global voice will encourage the government of Sri Lanka and others concerned to effect changes that will promote freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief in Sri Lanka.”

Open Doors Releases 2012 World Watch List

RLP member, Open Doors, has released its annual list of countries where the persecution of Christians is the most severe.  North Korea heads the list, with Afghanistan second and Iran fifth.   The World Watch List is a rankling of the top 50 countries in the world where persecution is at its worst.  It is widely recognized as the most copmprehensive and authoritative evaluation.  The focus of the list is on persecution of Christians for their faith, not persecution for political, economic, social, ethnic or accidental reasons.

For details and to see the full list, please click here.

Persecution of Christians in the Economist

The persecution of Christians across the world was the focus of a cover story in the 31 December 2011 issue of the Economist magazine.  Click here for a link to the article. 


Rising Restrictions on Religion

Rising Restrictions on Religion, a recent report by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, finds that restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose between mid-2006 and mid-2009 in 23 of the world’s 198 countries (12%), decreased in 12 countries (6%) and remained essentially unchanged in 163 countries (82%).

Because several countries with increasing restrictions on religion are very populous, however, the increases affect a much larger share of people than of states. More than 2.2 billion people – nearly a third (32%) of the world’s total population of 6.9 billion – live in countries where either government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose substantially over the three-year period studied.

Click here for details from the Pew Study.

Religious Liberty Partnership Voices Concern for Minority Believers in Middle East and North Africa

Religious freedom organizations united under the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) have released a statement on the Middle East and North Africa, in light of the recent democracy protests. The statement calls on governments in the region to “Ensure that all citizens are granted the foundational human right to adopt a religion or belief of their choice,” and makes recommendations for integrating freedom of religion into newly formed governments.

“As members of the Religious Liberty Partnership, we have closely observed the protests held in many Middle Eastern and North African countries,” reads the statement, “We welcome the widespread calls for greater freedom and strongly endorse these aspirations. We believe that freedom, equality and justice for all are essential for the development and cohesion of societies.

The RLP Statement, however, “notes with concern the violence against peaceful protesters at different times and places.”  The partnership expresses that, “There can be no true freedom without freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” adding that “the essence of humanity requires the ability to investigate the origin and meaning of human existence, and to adopt a belief of one’s choosing.”

Stephen Carter, CEO of Middle East Concern, says that, “The contagious optimism which spread from Tunisia and Egypt is increasingly giving way to disenchantment and fear as legitimate aspirations for reform and freedom are repressed or under threat from other agendas.”  Carter states that it is “vital that the international community redouble efforts to work with the peoples and governments of the Middle East and North Africa towards building free societies in which the fundamental rights of all are respected, including the foundational right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

The partnership calls on Middle Eastern governments to include the challenge to “Recognize the right to teach, manifest, and disseminate one’s religion or belief,” as well as to “Ensure that all citizens have the right to take their religious faith into the public sphere to inform public policy debate, recognizing that it is a common feature of many faiths that ethical aspects of the faith should impact all aspects of life.”

‘In observing the current events unfolding in many Middle Eastern countries I am excited at the possibilities for real progress to come from these events, said Mervyn Thomas, Chairman of the RLP and CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, UK.  “Now is a great opportunity for Christians across the region to show that, as national citizens, they have a role to play in bringing about justice for all peoples and recognition that this cannot be achieved without full religious freedom.”

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