Religious freedom alliance launches

The U.S. State Department announced Feb. 5 that 27 countries have joined the new International Religious Freedom Alliance that seeks to reduce religious persecution across the globe.

David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, an organization that advocates on behalf of those who are persecuted for their Christian faith, said he welcomes the increased focus and attention on religious liberty. 

“This initiative highlights the growing restrictions on individual freedom to practice the faith of one’s own choosing, or to not have a faith,” Curry said. “The alliance can help show societies how to create systems and practices that allow people freedom of conscience.”

The alliance’s first meeting fell on the eve of the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, which brought more than 4,000 political and faith leaders together in the nation’s capital. 

Founding countries of the International Religious Freedom Alliance include the U.S., Poland, Brazil, Greece, Israel, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

Curry called the initial alliance countries a “good first step.”

“Hopefully, we will see countries from each region and cultural framework affirm the core principles of religious freedom, at minimum, and over time join the alliance,” he said.

The State Department issued a list of principles for the alliance that include a commitment to “the right to hold any faith or belief, or none at all, and the freedom to change faith.” 

The new organization’s priorities include challenging blasphemy laws and advocating for people who are imprisoned or otherwise persecuted due to their religion or beliefs. (RNS, TAB)