On May 30th, Travis Weber, FRC’s Vice President for Policy and Director of the Center for Religious Liberty, made the following remarks at the Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum:
In a recent study, the Pew Research Center found that Christians were targeted for religious persecution in 144 countries, making them a persecuted group in almost three quarters of the world’s nation states.
What is to be done?
I would submit that persecuted Christians in China and elsewhere in Asia need a reawaking on the part of the American church to advocate—which it for now still has the freedom to do—on their behalf. This issue must be on the hearts and minds of America’s Christians. If we don’t use our freedom to speak up for our fellow believers overseas, who will?
Religious freedom is not just an American right. It is a human right.
All people, including the world’s Christian communities, must be protected in their exercise of this right. This is just as apparent today as it was during the post-World War II rebuilding period from which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born. Article 18, which protects the freedom of religion worldwide, is just as relevant today as it was then.
In our increasingly interconnected world, we live in a global context which is also increasingly hostile to religious liberty. It’s obvious—particularly from the worsening trend in China—that this issue does not just solve itself.
The American church must engage in the cause of international religious freedom.
The American church believes that God is in control, but we also have a choice to make. When we see fellow human suffering, how can we not say something?
This very fact also leads us to advocate for people of other faiths, for they are also made in the image of God. Their consciences must also be protected. The Christian understands that God does not force us to believe in him, so we should not use the power of government to force human beings to believe a certain way either.
Put in context, this means that the Christian church should also advocate for persecuted groups like China’s Uyghurs. A few weeks ago, I met with a Uyghur Muslim whose brother is imprisoned in a camp. My heart weighed heavily for him, and I prayed for the safety and protection of his brother. We pledged to help bring attention to his case, and do what we can to free his brother.
When people are oppressed for matters of conscience and religious faith, it hits a sensitive spot with us for a reason—conscience is unique to us as human beings; it marks us as human. The very fact that we are offended by such violations is testament to the importance of conscience, and the need to protect it.
China remains one of the worst violators of religious liberty in our time. As the United States and China continue to negotiate their trade partnership, religious freedom must be on the table. We cannot afford to let this opportunity pass. China must be called upon to do more to respect religious freedom and human rights—for all people.
In China’s eyes, the persecution of its Uyghurs and Christians (and other groups) is connected. China views the religious beliefs of these groups not as something to be allowed and protected, but as a threat to the political ideology of the state and to the authority of the Communist party.
This is the exact opposite of the understanding of religious freedom which is at the core of the American experiment—which holds a human being’s obligation to God as sacred and in need of protection from civil government. The very fact that this obligation to God is above civil government makes it a matter of conscience.
This conscience-based understanding of religious freedom is also that which is reflected in the human right of religious freedom described in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is a right we must protect for all people.