Religious Liberty and Persecution, a Statement of Concern


“On Religious Liberty and the Persecution of Christians and other Religious Minorities”

Adopted Unanimously by the ABCNJ Council on May 9, 2015

Whereas international law recognizes the right to religious liberty and the right to worship and manifest one’s faith of choice freely without fear of discrimination – rights historically proclaimed and championed by Baptists from the inception of our Baptist movement;

Whereas Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1 states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”;

Whereas the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 2 states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”;

Whereas the Pew Research Center found that as of 2012 3 nearly a quarter of the world’s nations and territories have anti-blasphemy laws or policies, and laws restricting blasphemy and apostasy are most common in the Middle East and North Africa, where 14 of 20 countries criminalize blasphemy and apostasy;

Whereas the rights and safety of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East have increasingly come under attack over the last several years as a result of violence and instability throughout the region;

Whereas ISIS has brutally massacred, murdered, and enslaved thousands of Christians, Shiites, Yazidis, Druze, Shabaks, Mandeans, and other religious minority groups that do not conform to its radical ideology, including reportedly kidnapping more than 100 Assyrian Christians in northeastern Syria;

Whereas the Syrian Civil War, has led to widespread sectarian violence committed by the Assad regime, ISIS, and other extremist and terrorist groups, with reports of religious cleansing and escalating attacks against Christian minorities;

Whereas a 2014 United Nations report found that the Iranian government continues to arrest and imprison Christians, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, and other religious minorities simply because of their faith, including pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen who was imprisoned in 2012 for alleged crimes related to his Christian faith;

Whereas Coptic Christians have been targeted and violently attacked for their beliefs by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, including a four-day series of attacks in August 2013 that destroyed 38 Coptic churches, 58 Coptic-owned houses, and 85 Coptic businesses, and by ISIS, which kidnapped and viciously murdered 21 Copts in Libya in February 2015;

Whereas Boko Haram in Nigeria repeatedly has targeted Christians and kidnapped Christian women and children, enslaving them and forcing them to convert to Islam;

Whereas in April 2015, the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab terrorist group attacked Garissa University College and targeting Christians, killed 147 people; and Whereas Congress unanimously passed the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, making it the official policy of the United States “to condemn violations of religious freedom, and to promote, and to assist other governments in the promotion of, the fundamental right to freedom of religion” and to “[stand] for liberty and [stand] with the persecuted, to use and implement appropriate tools in the United States foreign policy apparatus, including diplomatic, political, commercial, charitable, educational, and cultural channels, to promote respect for religious freedom by all governments and peoples”, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Council of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey—

  • strongly condemns violence against Christians and other religious minorities and any actions that limit the free expression and practice of faith by these minorities;

  • reaffirms the commitment of ABCNJ to promoting religious freedom and tolerance around the world and helping to provide protection and relief to religious minorities facing persecution and violence;

  • asks for all ABCNJ churches to include intercessory prayers for persecuted Christians in its weekly Sunday services and prayer meetings;

  • requests that the Federal Government of the United States show strong international leadership when it comes to the advancement and protection of religious freedoms and liberties;

  • calls on all governments throughout the world to uphold the internationally recognized human right to freedom from religious persecution and to end all forms of violence and discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities; and

  • urges President Obama to appoint a Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia, as Congress called for in the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2014 (Public Law 113–161)4.

  1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948. It serves as a common standard for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. 

  2. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly as resolution 2200A (XXI) on December 16, 1966. 
  4. This text of this statement of concern is adapted from House RES. 139, Condemning violence against religious minorities in the Middle East and any actions that limit the free expression and practice of faith by these minorities (March 3, 2015).