Third Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief: No Pandemic Pause in Persecution

November 19, 2020

The global pandemic has not brought relief from persecution to the world’s Christians. In fact, it’s just the opposite: “Malign actors have tried to use COVID-19 to restrict religious freedom,” said Sam Brownback, US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

Ultimately we know that the cross that so many Orthodox Christians and Christians of other faith traditions are carrying worldwide will lead to the resurrection. That is the great hope that our faith gives us.

At this time, however, the darkness and horror that Christians face on a daily basis is expanding. Combating it must be a priority for all the world’s governments.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere, and the imminent disappearance of Christianity from some of its ancient strongholds, see here.

“No Pandemic Pause in Persecution, Says Poland Ministerial,” by Jayson Casper, Christianity Today, November 18, 2020:

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the third Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief was hosted this week outside the United States for the first time—in Poland.

Next year it will take place in Brazil.

Launched in 2018 by the US State Department, the ministerial brings together the world’s top diplomats to ensure religious freedom remains an integral focus of international foreign policy.

The focus is necessary: 80 percent of the world’s population lives in nations that restrict religious freedom, according to the Pew Research Center.

And the pandemic has only increased persecution.

“Malign actors have tried to use COVID-19 to restrict religious freedom,” said Sam Brownback, US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

“The need to expand religious freedoms and protect religious minorities has become a global priority.”

The novel coronavirus took center stage at the two-day conference, hosted virtually by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom drew about 1,000 delegates to Washington. This year’s event was hosted online by Poland due to the pandemic.

Gayle Manchin, chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said restrictions on religion began as early as March.

She cited several examples:

In Sri Lanka, authorities ignored Muslim objections to cremation, despite health assurances there could be no transmission from a cadaver.
In South Korea, the government moved against the Shincheonji Church of Jesus sect after it became the center of the nation’s initial outbreak.
In Iran, despite a widespread release of prisoners that included some Christians, officials transferred Sufi Muslim prisoners into wards with known cases of COVID-19.
Saudi Arabia restricted movement in its Shiite-majority eastern Qatif region, wary of early widespread infection in Iran.
In Pakistan, COVID-19 became known as the “Shiite virus,” while Hindus and Christians were discriminated against in aid distribution.
Turkey was highlighted as an egregious example of worldwide scapegoating of Jews, blamed for the deliberate creation and ongoing spread of COVID-19.

“Some countries will not act unless they are named and shamed, and unless we are relentless,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.

“Our job is to outlast our adversaries by at least one day.”…