Responses to Terrorism Dominate Religious Freedom Debate

Alderman Carl Devlies welcomes Dr. Graz at the Leuven town hall.

Leuven, Belgium. How nations should respond to terrorism dominated the debate at the latest Experts meeting of the International Religious Liberty Association.

Held in Leuven, Belgium, close to the European center of Brussels, the Group of Experts tackled the conflicting responses to terrorism that can often be counterproductive.

“We chose this issue because it is so relevant today,” comments Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, deputy secretary general of the IRLA. “Many countries are responding to the terror threat, and we want to make sure that religious freedom is not a casualty in all this. We believe that freedom of conscience is a vital asset to security—and that to crack down on religious expression will only destabilize society, the opposite effect to what is planned.”

The historic town hall in Leuven.

The introduction to the final document “Guiding Principles and Recommendations on Security and Religious Freedom” states that “Religious freedom requires security, just as true security requires religious freedom.” It goes on to point out that “The two are interdependent, mutually reinforcing, not exclusive, and do not collide or conflict. Too frequently, responses to religion-based terrorism have involved efforts to enhance security at the expense of religious freedom. These responses have often proved counterproductive, and result in violations of international standards of human rights.”

Dr. John Graz (standing) confers with IRLA experts.

Consequently, “Such violations, which diminish both security and religious freedom, must be opposed by governments, religious groups, people of faith, and all those who truly value human rights,” the document concludes. The full text will be available at

The meetings which concluded June 12 were the culmination of a year’s intensive study and dialogue that brought together experts for previous consultations in Washington and Paris. The IRLA Group of Experts include church leaders, experts in canon law, and academics from a wide variety of faith communities. The IRLA was organized in 1893 and is widely recognized as one of the foremost agencies in promoting and defending international religious freedom.