Before the United States was founded, the biggest reason for European settlers to come to the New World was to escape religious persecution. This is why the foundation of our nation was built on the premise of religious freedom. We are a Christian nation from birth, but our corporate faith is predicated on acceptance of all religious beliefs as allowable within our borders.
Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially launched the International Religious Freedom Alliance with a diverse group of 26 other nations. There are those with Christian and Muslim majorities as well as the only nation with a Jewish majority participating. This is good. However, there are risks that include one major one we must take into account.
The minor risks are found in the charter. The chances of them becoming real problems are low, but they should be pointed out, just in case. The first is the focus on “religious minorities.” It’s a necessary wording since most persecution happens when religious majorities attack the smaller religious groups in a region or nation. Pompeo singled out nations like Iran and Burma where such persecutions take place.
“We condemn terrorists and violent extremists who target religious minorities, whether they are Yezidis in Iraq, Hindus in Pakistan, Christians in northeast Nigeria, or Muslims in Burma,” the Secretary said.
Persecution is not only relegated to minorities. This language, while understandable in spirit, should be removed as it seems to preclude the possibility that Christians in the Great Britain, Hindus in India, or Muslims in Iraq could be persecuted. Recent history tells us this is not true.
Another minor risk comes with the attachment to the United Nations. While not directly affiliated, the new organization invoked U.N. powers on multiple occasions in the charter. The last organization that should be influencing policies on religious freedom is the U.N. as they’ve demonstrated an unambiguous preference for Islam to the detriment of Judaism, Hinduism, and Christianity. This group should be completely independent of the U.N. because there is nothing that can be gained by invoking the U.N.’s clout. The only way the U.N. would get involved is to hamper the group’s efficacy.
The big risk lies in the focus on interfaith dialogue. This is a dangerous concept that has no place in a group that seeks to fight religious persecution. Interfaith dialogue is invariably a one-way conversation with the majority holding all the cards. It’s a rose-smelling phrase that’s popular in today’s politically correct society, but it results in bad blood at best. Forced intermingling of contentious faiths always leads to unintended consequences.
What’s worse is what can come from forced dialogues between opposing ideologies. One does not have to fear a prophesied “One World Religion” to realize that all faiths in general but Christianity in particular do not benefit from intermingling of beliefs. Maintaining peace between religious groups can be best accomplished without such dialogues. They lead to strife, not peace. The increase the risk of violence rather than reducing it. Interfaith dialogue is ideal in theory yet disastrous in practical application. It politicizes the interactions between leaders of different faiths.
Does that mean they shouldn’t talk to each other? Of course not. There should be appropriate discussions when situations arise, but that is best left for dealing with incidents. The IRFA seeks to use interfaith dialogue to prevent conflicts. That’s simply not a good idea.
This is a group that deserves support. It gets most things right in its charter and the goals of the group are incontestably positive. But they need to be more practical with how to solve problems of religious persecution or they’ll be as impotent as the U.N.