Republic (MNN) — Today marks the last day of the historic 7th World Congress
for Religious Freedom.*
from more than 60 countries gathered in the Dominican Republic for three days
of meetings focusing on the issues of religious freedom, advocacy and more.
nearly 900 delegates and guests present, the dialogue over the state of the
Church was summarized by remarks made by keynote speaker Dr Denton Lotz, former
leader of Baptist World Alliance and current president of the International
Religious Liberty Association. "We're here because we believe that freedom
of religion is basic to all human rights."
Carl Moeller, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, was also in
attendance. He says the important part
of the meetings was really found in dialogue between the participants. The issues were many. However, he noted,
"One of the ones that I'm most fascinated by is the theme of the
conference, which is: 'Religious Freedom and Secularism: Conflict or Partnership?'"
noted that in many regions of the world, freedom of religion has been reduced
to freedom of worship. Moeller says it
is in this contracted space that you find a unique approach being taken by
Christians. "As we look around the globe, there are many places where
secularism is actually providing the space for minority Christian communities
to exercise religious freedom."
Take the situation in Egypt, for example. There, the powers in play are coming from an
"incredibly powerful radical extremist religious agenda from the Muslim Brotherhood
and the Salafis in the new Parliament of Egypt."
Moeller goes on to explain that in this case, secularism benefits
Christians. "They're aligning themselves politically with secularists, and
even socialists in that country. Why? This is a very practical consideration
for Christian communities; it's only by doing that that they form enough of the
voting block to maintain any hope of free practice of their faith."
In the American context, the question means something entirely
different. "For most people listening in the United States, secularism
doesn't present itself in any way as an opportunity for partnership with people of faith and
religious freedom. There's more trouble in
the United States with secular forces than with religious forces."
Specifically, Moeller says that the founding fathers had a
separation in mind that was aimed at safeguarding certain rights from
government interference. "We set up
a pretty good system of protecting religious freedom–at least the founders
did in the United States–so that Quakers, Puritans, Jews, Orthodox, Catholic,
Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims could all come into the United States and
expect that their religious traditions would be treated with respect and dignity."
That reflection brings to full circle the purpose of the Congress.
70% of the world's
population live in places with religious subjugation. While three days of meetings won't provide
all the answers, they will be the launch point of advocacy, awareness, and
action. In light of the Gospel, it's dialogue
that forces a response: what will you do now?
three-day event is organized and sponsored by the International Religious
Liberty Association: a non-sectarian organization, chartered in 1893, dedicated
to defending and promoting freedom of religion for people of all faiths.