The Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) just concluded its annual consultation last week in the Brazilian capital city of Brasilia, with 80 key leaders from 24 countries participating. Having held previous international consultations in Europe, South Asia, Turkey, North America and South East Asia, this was the first time in its 11-year history the RLP consultation was in Latin America.
“One reason we came to Brazil was data showing it as the best country for religious liberty policy.” said Brian O’Connell, Facilitator of the RLP. “We wanted to come, celebrate that fact, learn from what Brazil is doing, and continue to encourage the country in that direction.” (Note: documentation released by the Pew Research Center has showed Brazil with the fewest religious restrictions in the world.)
Hosted by the Brazil-based organization, ANAJURE (the National Association of Evangelical Christian Lawyers), the event included closed plenaries for the planning of joint actions in defense of international religious liberty and a public seminar held at the Brazil Federal Senate on the protection of religious freedom for all faiths.
Speakers at the RLP Consultation included Federal Deputy Leonardo Quintão, President of the Parliamentary Coalition for Refugees and Humanitarian Aid of the Brazilian National Congress; Dr. Gerardo Amarilla, former chairman of the House of Representatives in Uruguay; Dr. Davi Charles Gomes, Chancellor of Mackenzie Presbyterian University, and Russell Stendal, a key player in the recent peace discussions in Colombia. The group also had audiences with Brazil President Michel Temer; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chancellor Aloysio Nunes; the Federal Senate and Chamber of Members.
“Thanks to the efforts of ANAJURE and Deputy Leonardo Quintao, we were able to have significant meetings both with Chancellor Nunes and President Temer,” said RLP Chairman Mervyn Thomas of Christian Solidarity Worldwide in the UK. “Both men showed a deep understanding of the issues surrounding international religious freedom, and indeed appeared to be fully committed to playing their part in promoting it.”
“It was amazing to sense God’s presence, the moving of His spirit, the oneness of mind, and the resolve to collaborate and work together,” stated Godfrey Yogarjah, Deputy Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance. “I have no doubt that this partnership comprising CEOs of over 60 organizations from 25 nations – each committed to advancing freedom of religion and belief – is only possible because God brought it together.”
In the meetings with the Brazilian President and Foreign Minister, religious freedom reports were presented. Among them was the report of ANAJURE given at the Organization of American States (OAS), entitled Religious Freedom in the Inter-American System of Human Rights, launched at the opening of the RLP Consultation. “We were proud to stand arm in arm with our international colleagues in demonstrating our commitment to international religious liberty,” said Dr. Uziel Santana, President of ANAJURE and another speaker at the consultation. “In delivering these reports we showed that in places like Cuba, Mexico and Colombia, we have serious religious liberty violations in Latin America as well. For example, ANAJURE is currently serving 500 families who have been expelled from their homes merely because they converted to Christianity.”