The Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) is a collaborative effort of Christian organisations from every continent focused on religious liberty for all. The RLP seeks to more intentionally work together in addressing advocacy, research, assistance, and in raising the awareness of religious restrictions worldwide.
The RLP traces its roots and developmental process back to the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) 2004 gathering in Pattaya, Thailand. There a “Persecuted Church Forum” recognized that those organisations working on religious liberty issues within the Christian community could be more strategic and much more effective if we could achieve “a higher level of collaboration.”
Specifically, the Forum recommended that a network be set up (perhaps under the umbrella of Lausanne, but certainly under the spirit of Lausanne), since “we can no longer afford to continue with the lack of collaboration which has sadly existed in the past, at cost to the body of Christ under persecution.” The group stated that “we can no longer afford to operate in isolation and play our games – we must pull together”. Therefore, they set up an initial steering committee composed of several core leaders under the chairmanship and guidance of Johan Companjen, then CEO of Open Doors International, to take the effort from Pattaya forward.
The proposed task of this ongoing group was outlined in the section of a Lausanne Occasional Paper dealing with partnership. Namely:
- Create awareness in the non-persecuted Church of the needs of those who are being persecuted.
- Communicate to the persecuted, the love, concern and prayers of others.
- Give teaching on the Body of Christ and our need for each other.
- Encourage and strengthen the persecuted Church by making contact with persecuted Christians in other countries, for the purpose of:
- Sharing information about the victorious church in other situations of persecution.
- Counseling of persecuted Christians by other believers who have had the same experience.
- Facilitate networking of Christians working with the persecuted to enhance the exchange of information and best practices.
- Help to prepare Christians facing varying degrees of persecution or freedom to prepare for coming change in either direction.
- Strengthen the non-persecuted church spiritually through the example and teaching of the persecuted.
- Facilitate the exchange of theological reflections on suffering, persecution, and martyrdom among those concerned.
April 2022 marked the 16th annual consultation of the Religious Liberty Partnership (with virtual meetings taking place in 2020 and 2021). The shifts in the RLP’s emphasis over the past several years to an explicitly stated support for religious liberty for all; and the change in our statement of faith (from the Lausanne Covenant to the Apostles’ Creed) reflect our desire to be a space where all Christian organisations can gather together, build relationships, learn from each other, and explore possible partnering.
As we regularly remind ourselves, the outcomes of collaboration and partnering are often measured differently than traditional ministry results. True collaboration occurs when groups intentionally explore the question of what they can do together that they are not able to do separately. The result is a “shared success” among partners and often many more resources are able to be released to joint efforts and projects.
The RLP was officially launched in 2006, when key leaders from Open Doors International, CSW UK, and World Evangelical Alliance decided to hold regular gatherings of the Christian community focus on religious liberty. Our anticipated outcomes for the initial period of our existence related to relationship building, networking, sharing information (ideas, resources, etc.), and the development of best practices. Of course, those remain the foundation of all the work we do together. Now we continue to explore even more intentional collaborative projects, especially through our five established Task Groups: Apostasy Laws; Gender and Religious Freedom; Leader Training; Refugees & Religious Liberty; and Research.
In addition, with the June 2022 appointment of Roshini Wickremesinhe as the first RLP Executive Director, we see the development of even more leader capacity in and through the RLP movement in working with and for those under pressure for their faith.
Brian O'Connell (RLP Global Facilitator)