IRLA Conference of Experts Adopts Document on Responsible Proselytism

Around the world, proselytism is a major religious freedom issue. In some nations, one who proselytes and/or one who becomes a proselyte may be executed. In other countries, non-established or minority religions or belief systems, for whom proselytism is a fundamental principle, may become the targets of various forms of persecution.

Whether they rise from government or religion or both, such reactions violate international norms of freedom of religion or belief-chiefly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They must not go unchallenged. Sad to say, however, that action against proselytism may be brought on by irresponsible methods employed by proselyting movements.

These concerns became the basis for the International Religious Liberty Association Conference of Experts' lengthy study of proselytism and, ultimately, the adoption of a consensus document. The IRLA Conference of Experts convened in May 1999 (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain) and in January 2000 (Las Navas del Marques, Spain). Committees of the conference met at other times in Madrid, in Bracknell, England, and in Silver Spring, Maryland. Conference participants from Africa, Europe, North America, and South America included academics, ecclesiastics, governmental officials, and representatives from the United Nations. Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant), Islam, and Judaism were represented. Goodwill pervaded. The Conference of Experts was committed to preserving the freedom to witness to faith and the parallel freedom to adopt a religion or to change.

Bert B. Beach, President (2000) John Graz, Secretary General Richard Lee Fenn, Deputy Secretary General