Letter of the UCSJ President on 2019 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom

 On July 16 and 17 Anastasia Aseeva, UCSJ Executive Director, and I attended the Second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom organized by the US State Department in Washington, DC.  The event welcomed more than 1000 participants from around the world to discuss violations of the freedom of faith which unfortunately exist around the globe and cause injury to millions.  Witnesses came and were listened to about their experiences and what can be done to stop these activities.

The UCSJ as an invited guest listened to the stories of atrocities and what steps are available to bring about religious freedom in these countries.  Some countries such as Russia, China, North Korea and Burma  would not attend because their activities were not dependable.  Many of the witnesses were giving their views of the atrocities in the Asian countries of the world.  It also became evident that the Ministerial directed its presentation solely to religious freedom and presumed that this was more significant than all other human rights. 

This is not the view of the UCSJ.   We believe that freedom of religion is one of many human rights that a government must adhere to.  For example, freedom of speech, freedom of the right to assemble, the right to vote, and right to be free from corruption are many times on an equal plane.  The Ministerial promotes setting up religious freedom Round Tables in countries in pursuit of their goals.  To this end, there have been over twenty Round Tables initiated, mostly in Asia and Africa.   In Europe, there were two Round Tables started in 2019, one in Brussels, and of course, one in Kiev, Ukraine  initiated  with the aid of the UCSJ.

Larry Lerner and Oleksandr Zaiets

Larry Lerner and Oleksandr Zaiets

Olexsandr Zaiets, Co-Chairman of the Religious Freedom Institute of the Ukraine , Anastasia and I spent a number of hours discussing this Round Table of Ukraine.  Established in April 2019 in Kyiv Religious Freedom Round Table of Ukraine is concerned with both religious freedom and human rights, and has twenty representatives of civil society NGOs as well as 40 leaders of Religious NGOs on its Board.  The first activity of the Religious Freedom Institute was to condemn the invasion of Crimea and Donbass and the repressions in that area of the country. The International Religious Freedom Round-table took great note of the leaderships of the Religious Freedom Round-tables in pursuing human rights and thanked the UCSJ for its work in helping the formation of this Round Table.

Chris Seiple, International Policy Institute, Oleksandr Zaiets, and Larry Lerner

Chris Seiple, International Policy Institute, Oleksandr Zaiets, and Larry Lerner

The Religious Freedom Round-table in Ukraine has used the example of the International Religious Freedom Round Table  in Washington, DC   The  Ministerial is now trying to set up Round Tables around the world to support religious freedom in countries with like minded religious NGO participants and civil society partners.

Greg Mitchel, IRF Round-table moderator, and Larry Lerner

Greg Mitchel, IRF Round-table moderator, and Larry Lerner

UCSJ continues its participation in the International Religious Freedom Round Table which resulted in the Ministerial and believes that its work and our involvement is a benefit to our movement.   The best summation of the work of the Second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom was the speech given by Lord David Alton of Great Britain. #IRFMinisterial

Sincerely,

Larry Lerner