Religious Freedom Experts Confront Issues of Security, Terrorism

The Board of Experts of the IRLA stand on the United States Supreme Court steps

Washington, D.C., USA… [IRLA News] Top experts in religious freedom confronted the issues raised by national security concerns and terrorism and issued a preliminary statement emphasizing how respect for religious freedom was essential for security and a stable society.

Meeting in Washington. D.C. on November 15-17, the Board of Experts of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) examined the terrorist situation and the response of the national security community. In reacting to terrorist threats, sometimes states have infringed on freedom of religion and conscience that caused counter-productive results, the experts concluded.

“Respecting freedom of religion is often a more effective tool in winning loyalty of citizens and in achieving peace than weapons and coercive measure,” the statement affirms. “Responses to terrorism and security threats must take these dimensions of religions seriously,” since “failure to grasp the role that religious beliefs are playing in motivating terrorist activities will result in reduced security.”

The document sets out a list of seventeen principles that deal with terrorist activities, the duties of the state, and the responsibilities of religious believers and communities. These include statements that “religion should never serve as a justification for hatred, disrespect of others, or criminal violence; indiscriminate violence, threats and other acts of terrorism cannot be justified under international law; security should not become the ultimate value of a society, even under the threat of terrorism. Those regimes established under the auspices of ‘national security’ have proven to be repressive and incompatible with the culture of human rights.”

Dr. John Graz, IRLA secretary general and also director for the Department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, commented that the preliminary statement was “a first statement on what are vital concerns in today’s world. As freedoms (particularly religious freedoms) are reduced under the justification of national security, all of us need to be aware that we may be causing the very problems we are trying to prevent. Religious liberty is an essential component of security for any nation, and the repression of free expression of religious beliefs causes great destabilization.” [Jonathan Gallagher]