ADF International multi-faith letter to President von der Leyen respectfully requests that the European Union continue to lead on the promotion of human rights throughout the world by continuing the mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU.
As participants of the IRF Roundtable, members of the I.M.F.C. have been fortunate to work extensively with Jan Figel, and have been deeply grateful for the work that the EU has done to promote freedom of religion or belief throughout the world.
We reproduce the letter in full:
Ursula von der Leyen
President of the European Commission
Rue de la Loi 200
Re: The continuation of the mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU
Dear President von der Leyen,
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are writing to applaud your commitment to universal human rights and the rule of law, and respectfully request that the EU continue to lead on the promotion of human rights throughout the world by continuing the mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU.
Many of us are participants in the U.S.-based International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable. With ten years of continuous operations, the IRF Roundtable is an informal group of individuals from non-governmental organizations who gather regularly to discuss the most pressing issues facing communities and individuals of all faiths and no faith, when they have their right to freedom of religion or belief violated. Further, the IRF Roundtable is a multifaith venue for collaboration to advance the right to freedom of religion or belief, which is a fundamental human right for everyone, no matter his or her specific faith. The IRF Roundtable and its participants have been fortunate to be able to work extensively with the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU (2016-2019), Jan Figel, and have been deeply grateful for the work that the EU has done to promote freedom of religion or belief throughout the world. The EU’s advocacy has borne real fruit for so many victims who have been targeted for their religion or belief.
In the constellation of human rights, freedom of thought, conscience and religion plays a central role, as the basic ability of any human being to think and act according to his or her beliefs. However, these freedoms have come under increasing attack over the past decade. According to the Pew Research Center’s latest annual study on global restrictions on religion, 83% of the world’s population lived in countries with high or very high levels of restrictions and/or hostilities in 2017, up from 79% in 2015, 74% in 2014 and 68% in 2007. These freedoms are undermined and threatened in many parts of the world, whether in the form of blasphemy and anti-conversion laws, severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the free practice of religion, or physical attacks on people targeted because of their religion or belief—such as Muslims in New Zealand, Christians in Sri Lanka, Jews in San Diego, or the ongoing crises involving the Rohingya in Myanmar. Even now, countless prisoners of conscience, among them those imprisoned for their religion or belief, languish in appalling circumstances, exceptionally vulnerable to diseases like COVID-19. These individuals need the voices of the international community.
The EU must stand strong and united in order to respond to these challenges. The EU must stand together in the face of these unprecedented attacks on universal human rights. With its Special Envoy, the EU has led in the international response, and that leadership is needed now more than ever. We sincerely hope that the EU will continue the role of the Special Envoy, and even strengthen the tools available in this regard, so that the EU’s necessary voice on universal human rights will continue to play a key role in the growing international movement for the protection of religion or belief for all people everywhere.
We again applaud your leadership, President von der Leyen, on universal human rights, and humbly request that the continuation of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU will be a priority in the EU’s deliberations in the coming months.
Baptist World Alliance
Boat People SOS
Buddhist Solidarity Association
Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
Center for Pluralism
CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions)
Church of Almighty God
Church of Scientology National Affairs Office
Citizen Power Initiatives for China
Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam
Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience
European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom
Free Yezidi Foundation
Indian American Muslim Council
Institute for Global Engagement
International Christian Concern
International Human Rights Committee
International Multi-Faith Coalition
International Organization to Preserve Human Rights
Jubilee Campaign USA
Middle East Concern
National Youth Council of Nigeria
Open Doors International
Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
Religious Freedom Institute
Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America
Saint Nicholas Freedom Group
Search for Common Ground
Set My People Free
Syriens Chrétiens pour la Paix
Tahrir Alnisa Foundation
United Macedonian Diaspora
Vietnam Coalition Against Torture
Vietnamese Women for Human Rights in Vietnam
With title and organization for identification purposes
Canadian MP (ret.)
W. Cole Durham, Jr.
International Center for Law and Religion Studies
J. Reuben Clark Law School
Brigham Young University
Chief Operating Officer
White Mountain Research Inc.
Rev. Joseph K. Grieboski
Director, Office of Ecumentical Interfaith, and Global Engagement
Diocese of the Eastern USA
Independent Old Catholic Church
Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ilyas
IDRAC (International Dialogue Research & Awareness Centre)
Mahomed Akbar Khan
American Muslim Strategies
International Religious Freedom Roundtable
Red Eagle Enterprises
Association for the Advancement of Freedom of Religion or Belief in Vietnam
European Office of the Church of Scientology for Public Affairs and Human Rights