The head of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has said Christians face increasing persecution and marginalization worldwide, and called on governments to urgently step up their efforts to safeguard religious liberty.
Addressing a group of UK lawmakers at a meeting convened by the Dignitatis Humanae Institute on November 30th, Leonard Leo said the world is facing an uptick in attacks on people of faith.
“At a time of increasing marginalisation, discrimination and persecution – especially of Christians – I appeal to the international community to respond robustly to attacks on religious freedom wherever they occur,” he said.
After his speech in the Palace of Westminster entitled “Religious Freedom, Sharia Law and Human Dignity,” the US “religious freedom tsar” recalled Pope Benedict XVI’s frequent appeals to uphold this basic right.
“On many occasions, Pope Benedict has said the right to religious freedom should be viewed as innate to the fundamental dignity of every human person,” he said. “It is crucial to the common good of society.”
“It has therefore been a great honour to speak here in the UK Parliament and address this important issue at this time,” he continued. “The USCIRF is the world’s only independent governmental body fully devoted to advancing this fundamental human right, serving as a voice for the voiceless in countries where religious freedom is not respected.”
Mr Leo said he was “very grateful” for the work of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute and other such groups for their “invaluable work in helping to promote this urgent and vital cause worldwide.”
Responding to his speech, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Chairman of the Cross Party Working Group on Human Dignity, drew attention to a recent report by the charity Aid to the Church in Need which showed that 75 percent of religious persecution is against Christians, mostly in the Islamic world.
He also noted the growing marginalization of Christians in the West.
“In Britain, Christians face a double threat,” he explained. “Firstly, radical secularism that has forced the Catholic Church to curtail some of its valuable services to society, and secondly a growing radical Islam that is leading to the creation of parallel Sharia laws. This so-called “Sharia Creep” is out to exploit the weaknesses of our value system, increasing the chances of extremist violence.
“All of this shows that the USCIRF is needed more now than perhaps at any other time in its history,” Lord Alton said.
“Through its steadily growing network of working groups, the Dignitatis Humanae Institute will strive to work ever more closely with Mr Leo’s organisation and others which do such valuable and urgently needed work in protecting this fundamental right.”