Prof. Dr. Janet Epp Buckingham
Director of Global Advocacy for the World Evangelical Alliance; Professor of Political Studies at Trinity Western University, Ottawa, Canada
Mission and Religious Freedom
Many Christians have long taken the Great Commission seriously – to go and make disciples of all nations. More recently, there has been a focus on evangelism in the 10/40 window, an area which is home to the majority of the world's Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. It is a region where governments preference the dominant religion and suppress minority religions. Proselytism may be criminalised. In some Muslim countries, apostasy from Islam may result in the death penalty.
In light of the realities of missions, it is vital to understand the legal perspective of freedom of religion or belief. Many organisations highlight Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the foundation for the international standard for freedom of religion or belief. As well, UN treaties include freedom of religion or belief. Various mechanisms exist within the UN system to raise concerns when states violate this human rights.
Many states, unfortunately, violate freedom of religion or belief. Some states criminalise apostasy. More criminalise blasphemy. Some states criminalise proselytism. Others have anti-conversion laws. These laws have been used to marginalise Christians. Those in missions must be aware of the local laws and be prepared for the consequences of sharing the gospel.
This paper will explore international law and domestic laws that impact missions. The goal is to make missions organisations aware so as to prepare missionaries for the realities they will face.
Dr. Anna Hampton
Global Risk Specialist & Consulting, Providing Pastoral Care to those facing risk for Gospel Advancement, Barnabas International, USA; Doctorate of Religious Studies, Trinity Theological Seminary, Newburgh, Indiana, USA, 2015
Facing Risk, Danger and Fear in Mission:
Combining human sciences, professional wisdom and Christian theology
Christ-followers ministering in front-line, hostile and dangerous situations for the sake of the Gospel develop more resilience and endurance when they have an articulated theology of risk. Risk Assessment, fear management, and decision-making in uncertainty and chaos require missionaries develop practical and spiritual skills to be able to thrive. These skills require increased discernment and heightened awareness of stewardship.
Over the past decade, I’ve developed a systematic risk action plan integrating spirituality, faith, emotions, stewardship, and practical danger assessment. However, there are common obstacles to developing a sound theology of risk and action plan. This presentation will briefly highlight some of the obstacles, then focus on how I developed a functionally applied theology of risk combining the best practices of risk assessment and management, along with awareness of the extensive findings on the psychology of risk, and a biblically unified theology of risk.
A missiologically-focused theology of risk will be presented using three exegetical examples of Paul and the early Church where three different Greek words are commonly translated with “risk,” demonstrating the three necessary components of a wholistic theology of risk.
Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer
Professor II, Fjellhaug International University College; Consultant, Research Project “Religious Freedom and Religious Persecution”; Senior Consultant and Co-founder, International Institute for Religious Freedom; also affiliated with ETF Leuven, Belgium and Stellenbosch University, South Africa; resident in Germany
Towards a mission hostility index
Starting with correlations between mission and religious freedom, this paper focuses on restrictions of Christian mission. It seeks to explore the feasibility of creating a Mission Hostility Index (MHI) based on the data of the World Watch List (WWL) on discrimination and persecution of Christians by the advocacy agency Open Doors.
A first step towards this is a case study on WWL data pertaining to Jordan. Questions in the WWL questionnaire found to be sufficiently specific on the topic of “mission” are clustered and tested for their results in four groups. It is further queried which formulas for combining the numerical data of individual questions, as well as of clusters of questions, would lead to the most meaningful modeling of reality. Finally, it is tested how many of these questions and clusters would be needed to create a meaningful index value.
It appears that the clusters of questions on (1) social risk of individual Christian witness and (2) on hindrances of collective Christian witness are found to be sufficient to establish an MHI. Questions on experiences of discrimination or persecution related to (3) conversion (in this case from Islam to Christianity) would systematically result in a slightly higher index value. Other questions, which could be clustered under the heading (4) anti-Christian ‘mission’ collectively result in a somewhat lower index value in the case of Jordan.
The data on Jordan is also compared to an external source, the historical and missiological research of Andreas Feldtkeller on the relation between Christians and Muslims in Jordan. This provides added value, e.g. in exploring the reasons for the harsh penalty for Christian enticement to apostasy.
As this first exploratory step is limited to one country only so far, these results would need to be validated on larger datasets, to move towards a comparative MHI.
Dr. Frank-Ole Thoresen
Rector, Fjellhaug International University College and Associate professor of Missiology
Between Freedom and Conformity:
Freedom of Religion and Belief in a Post-Revolutionary Tunisia
Tunisia has been a country of relative religious homogeneity, with the Maliki interpretation of Sunni Islam representing the majority, and being the privileged religion by the state. From the time of independence in 1957, the first president, Habib Bourguiba, worked to establish a Tunisian national identity where a modern, indigenous, and tolerant interpretation of Maliki Islam played a key role. The American scholar, Elisabeth Young, labels this national myth an important part of tunisianité, namely what constitutes the national identity of modern Tunisia.
In 2011, Tunisia became the country that sparked the fire of the Arab Spring. Although Religion had not played a central role during those eventful days in 2011, it soon became a hot issue. In the following months, several worship sites were attacked and desecrated, and political parties with Islamist and Salafi inclinations became vociferous participants in the political discourse. Hence, they challenged the concept of a religiously homogenous Tunisia.
In this study, we investigate further the situation of FORB in post-revolutionary Tunisia. Based on the experiences of informants representing two minority religions we investigate to what extent individuals representing religious minorities on the periphery of public interest in Tunisia suffer from an infringement on the freedom to exercise and express their religious beliefs. We ask the question: “How do members of selected religious minority groups experience tolerance for freedom of religion and beliefs in Tunisia a decade after the Jasmine Revolution?”
The minority groups are in this study represented by members of the Jewish population and an unofficial protestant Christian community. Members of the minority Muslim Ibadi community constitute a comparative perspective.
To categorize the material the study has employed a typology of the pervasiveness of violations of FORB, produced by Marie Juul Petersen and Katherine Marshall in a report for the Danish Institute for Human Rights. Further, the analysis has employed the central concept of tunisianité in order to explain the infringements minority groups experience on their religious freedom.
Research Paper Presentations
(In alphabetical order)
Rev. James J. Bultema
PhD student, Missiology, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit Leuven; Executive Director, St. Paul Cultural Center, Antalya, Turkey; MDiv Denver Seminary, USA, 1989
Sheep among Wolves or Wolves among Sheep?
Foreign Missionaries and Fettered Religious Freedom in Turkey (1961-2023)
While the Protestant missionaries to Turkey since 1961 have generally seen themselves as “sheep among wolves,” in line with Christ’s description of his dispatched disciples in Matthew 10:16, Turkish authorities and citizens have tended to view the missionaries more like wolves among sheep. This points to a longstanding conundrum of mission in Turkey.
As apparent results, Turkish authorities have intentionally restricted religious freedom, and missionaries have been deported from the country for overstepping often unknown (to the missionaries) or nebulous boundaries related to those restrictions.
Based on my survey of related literature and the research of my doctoral thesis, I first attempt to explain the historical and cultural roots of this conundrum. Subsequently, with continued focus on the situation in Turkey, I argue that a modified missionary mindset and modus operandi could result in less ill-timed missionary attrition and more missionary fulfillment.
In closing, I suggest some generalized conclusions, as well as draw attention to Christ’s injunctive advice, also in Matthew 10:16, to “be as shrewd as snakes and as harmless as doves.” Such advice is as valid today as ever before—both in Turkey and elsewhere.
Julie Castin Cordeiro
Ph.D. student at the Evangelisch Theologische Faculty
The Left Wing and Religious Freedom in Brazil:
The Role of Social Media in Perceived Religious Persecution among Evangelical Groups in Brazil
After the close win of president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva defeating the evangelical opponent Jair Bolsonaro there has been religious unrest in Brazil. This paper examines the role of fake news in propagating a perceived religious persecution among evangelicals in Brazil by the left wing political party in Brazil.
By analyzing various social media outlets, I analyze the discourse in which leaders and lay people have propagated the idea that the left wing party in Brazil has been trying to close and silence evangelical churches. The paper will focus on the period leading up to the last presidential elections in Brazil that occurred in October of 2022.
I will use two major research strategies (1) analyzing common discourse words that hint into the idea of persecution and (2) analysis of the discourse and correlation to apocalyptic discourse of “end of times.” The hypothesis is that the evangelical church perceives the current government as agents of the devil that are persecuting the church. The consequences are socio-political unrest, hostility among different groups (left and right) within the church, pressure to conform.
Prof. em. Dr. Klaus Fiedler
Prof. emeritus, Theology and Religious Studies Mzuzu, Malawi (-2019); Publisher
The Interdenominational Faith Missions and Religious Freedom
Does religious freedom apply also within the Christian faith?
For the Faith Missions religious freedom was not a concept to struggle for, but due to their theology of "personal faith," an assumed asset to fulfill their goal to reach the areas unreached with the gospel ("Inland Principle"). The Faith Missions differed from the Classical Missions in that they applied the principle of religious freedom not only to the choice of religion, but also to the choice of denomination.
This was publicly expressed in the protest of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union
leader Harry Guinness against the exclusion of Latin America from the considerations of the Edinburgh 1910 World Missionary Conference, as they could not see South America as evangelized ("reached").
The concept of "reaching the unreached" allowed the Faith Missions to "jump" from the coastal areas inland, accepting the "Comity Principle" with the Classical missions. Though they would not deny that individual Catholics could be true Christians, they could not accept the Catholic Church as a genuine church.
These concepts allowed the Livingstone Inland Mission as the first faith mission in Africa to establish itself at the mouth of the Congo River (an old Catholic mission field), and the Svenska Missionförbundet to evangelize "Catholic" Congo Brazzaville. The same principles allowed in 1912 WEC to start in an unreached area of North Eastern Congo "in parallel" to Catholic missionary efforts, and they were strongly applied in the WEC's move to establish work in "Catholic" countries in West Africa, where entry for non-Catholics was not that easy, like in the case of Portuguese Guinea-Bissau, where Bessie Fricker established the first non-Catholic church.
Equally, the Faith Missions were not willing to accept "religious comity" with Islam, in areas that were – officially or not – demarcated as being out of bounds for Christian missions, like in Northern Sudan or in the "Middle Belt" of Nigeria, which the Muslim Emirates claimed as theirs.
Elizabeth Francis, LL.M, LL.B, MA
Legal Counsel, Global Religious Freedom, ADF International, UK
International legal advocacy as a tool to keep the doors open for the gospel:
the foreign missionary context
In international human rights jurisprudence, the natural and fundamental human right to freedom of religion or belief is inalienable and is reflected within international legal texts as the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Most countries around the world recognize a legal duty to uphold and protect religious freedom; this includes states signing or ratifying international or regional Declarations, Conventions or Conventions that reflect this natural right. Collectively, these rights include the freedom to change a religion or belief; freedom, either alone or in community and in public or private, to manifest a religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance; freedom of opinion and expression; and freedom of assembly. Some international texts codify religious freedom rights into binding law and restrict states limiting it. In addition, many nations have explicit national legal protections for religious freedom, such as is embedded within constitutions.
Yet, against this backdrop, reports of foreign Christian missionaries being banned from proselytizing, barred from re-entering countries they work in; and imprisoned for supporting local church activities are not uncommon across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. In many of the countries where foreign missionaries have been prevented from sharing the gospel, international or regional legal texts have been signed or ratified without reservation. Local legislation moreover often guarantees, on paper, the religious freedom of all.
The author will investigate to what extent legal advocacy can be used as an effective tool to strengthen the freedom of foreign missionaries in countries hostile to Christian evangelism in order to enable them to continue with their work. The author will explore this question from the international and regional level drawing upon examples of how legal advocacy has been effective in situations related to foreign missionaries; and where shortcomings may come in law.
MTh student, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, Belgium
The Cost of Discipleship
– Biblical Hermeneutical Approaches Applied in Matthew 10:34-39
Persecution and suffering are part of the mission of God. When Christians share their faith in diverse cultures, some unbelievers react with hostility toward Christians and are resistant to their gospel message. As a result, persecution arises.
In His mission discourse in Matthew 10, Jesus first gives His disciples instructions for their short-term mission and the remaining of the church age. He also depicts and solemnly warns against the coming hostilities and resistance that His disciples would experience after His death and resurrection. Finally, Jesus clarifies the cost of discipleship and offers promise of life. He urges His followers to make a choice. On the other hand, the motif of “God’s presence,” being traced throughout the entire Matthean gospel, assures His followers and encourages them to respond to Jesus’ calling. Therefore, the reminder of the divine presence equips Christians to bear the cost of discipleship, and God’s promise of life sustains them to face adversity in mission.
In this paper, the text in Matthew 10:34-39 will be analysed with the special focus on the fragmentation of relationship in verses 35 and 36, where Micah 7:6 is cited. Both texts in Micah and in Matthew as well as their contexts will be examined with the aid of different hermeneutical approaches. Then, it elucidates in what manner Micah's prophecy enriches the understanding of the Matthean text. Finally, various hermeneutical theories and literary approaches which study “behind the text” and “at the text itself” will be evaluated. In other words, this paper will reflect how these hermeneutical tools enhance the exegesis of the Matthean text and its application today.
Dr. Marcus Grohmann
Post-doctoral Researcher, Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology, Reconciliation and Justice Unit, University Stellenbosch, South Africa; Dr. phill., Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany, 2022
An unexpected threat to the missionary’s religious freedom:
Why ‘vulnerable’ approaches to mission can be unsettling for the sending community – and why they are worth the ‘risk’
The religious freedom of missionaries consists of the ability to carry out ministry appropriately in a given context. Apart from a legal status, this freedom also hinges on enabling support structures. These can erode, effectively limiting missionaries’ religious freedom, if mistrust enters the missionary-sender relationship.
Prone to such distrust are ‘vulnerable’ approaches to mission, referring to ministry practiced by Westerners in majority world contexts exclusively using local people’s indigenous languages and resources. While sometimes being praised, such mission styles can also be regarded with suspicion by the senders: Pointing out the need for using local languages for effective cross-cultural ministry implicitly challenges the idea that multicultural togetherness can be sought on equal terms using English; allowing a local language to direct interpretation of Scripture sometimes appears to be relativizing truth; refusing to use outside resources in ministry can be at odds with popular, ‘holistic’ understandings of mission; immersing oneself into a foreign culture for the sake of contextual ministry can increasingly come into conflict with legislation in the West seeking to uphold certain standards not always followed elsewhere. This can negatively affect missionaries’ moral, spiritual and financial support from home and thus limit their religious freedom with consequences for senders and receivers of missionaries alike.
And yet, vulnerable mission offers promising ways of seeking to ‘decolonise’ mission and the church, countering ongoing dependency on the West. Enabling and not restricting the religious freedom of vulnerable missionaries may therefore be crucial for an indigenous community’s acquisition of faith that is orthodox yet based on their own cultural-linguistic foundations. This requires sending communities to trust their missionaries with such ‘risky’ approaches and be willing to learn from insights of field missionaries that may undermine some of what is commonly believed about intercultural understanding based on English in our supposedly ‘global village’.
PhD student, Missiology, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit Leuven, Belgium
Interrelations between conversion and persecution
Conversion to Christianity and persecution of Christians as individual issues are the subject of numerous studies. In many contexts, converts are the most intensely persecuted group among Christians. A look at the mission history of older and more recent times shows that conversion and persecution are connected in many ways. This raises the question: What is the relationship between conversion and persecution? An in-depth systematic examination of these interdependencies is still lacking.
To find answers to this question, current missiological literature was examined in view of these interrelations within the framework of a master's thesis: Methodologically, the focus was on the Regnum Edinburgh Centenary Series (RECS), which – with 35 volumes – can probably be considered the most comprehensive missiological series of the 21st century.
The different aspects that emerge in the contributions of the series can be unfolded in five thematic groups: 1) conversion as a trigger of persecution, 2) persecution and conversion as mutual influences, 3) anti-conversion motives as reasons for persecution, 4) pro-conversion actors as victims and supporters, 5) other groups between conversion and persecution.
In exploring these groups of topics, a nuanced and wide-ranging picture of the many dynamics between conversion and persecution emerges. Although conversions take place between different religions and worldviews, the focus of this paper is on conversions to Christianity and the persecution of Christians.
Dr. Wolfgang Häde
Lecturer in Theology, Martin-Bucer-Seminary, Turkey and Germany; theological staff of „Hilfsaktion Märtyrerkirche“(Voice of the Martyrs), Germany
Understanding origins of discrimination and reflecting on Christian responses:
A case study on Turkey
A previous study by the author about the perception of Christians in five Turkish daily newspapers representing different socio-political milieus in Turkey reveals a spectrum of ideologically based perceptions, but at the same time shows a broad consensus in Turkish society of seeing Christians and especially missionaries as potentially dangerous, untrustworthy and as a threat for the country.
This paper will try to explain reasons behind these perceptions. After seeking a fundamental biblical-theological rationale for verbal discrimination against Christian there will be a focus on ideological, political, historical, psychological and sociological roots of adversity.
The main reasons appear to be: a historical trauma since the falling apart of the Ottoman Empire, a fundamental religious distrust of Christians who reject the claims of the Islamic prophet, the perception – especially of Protestant Christians – as “fifth column” of Western imperialism, but also a political instrumentalization of the existing aversion against Christians.
A better understanding of adverse perceptions leading to discrimination may help to refine the response to hostility and prejudice by the Turkish church and to avoid missionary approaches that are not helpful. In dialogue with the First Letter of Peter the author will carve out advice for appropriate responses to discrimination in Turkey that hopefully will help the Turkish church in her self-perception and in her proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.
BA Journalism Studies (Bachelor of Arts), Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany
German media coverage of the persecution of Christians in the 21st century
The paper explores the question of how the topic of persecution of Christians is dealt with in German print and online editorial offices and which reasons are decisive for this. The study provides findings that apply to Germany, but similar tendencies can certainly be identified for other (especially Western) countries.
Although 360 million Christians are persecuted worldwide and in some places this persecution is reaching genocidal proportions, there is a lack of attention in the West. Archbishop Casmoussa from Mosul says: "The media have so far largely ignored this catastrophe, almost as if a news blackout had been imposed here." And Markus Rode from Open Doors Germany criticises: "When it comes to religious freedom for Christians, this is largely ignored by Western governments and media. If a holy book is burned in a Western country - which is reprehensible - there are media earthquakes and an emergency meeting of the UN Human Rights Council. By contrast, thousands of Christians murdered by Islamists often don't even seem worth a side note."
Is it a boycott or are there professional criteria responsible for the lack of coverage of this issue?
In seven interviews with journalists conducted as part of a bachelor thesis, reasons for quantity and quality deficits in media coverage were identified: Dwindling interest of secular readers in religious topics, journalistic selection criteria such as news factors, instrumentalisation by right-wing populist movements, lack of information, and limited budgets and correspondents in foreign reporting. Journalists' lack of religious literacy, their personal world views and (often unconscious) associations with Christianity influence reporting.
All these reasons - especially journalistic selection criteria, the status quo of foreign reporting and the relationship between journalists and religion - will be elaborated in the paper. Finally ideas will be presented on how the topic can possibly be given more media presence.
Prof. Dr. Hans Morten Haugen
Professor of international diakonia, VID Specialized University, Oslo, Norway
The new conceptual framework of vocatio – advocatio – provocatio:
A potential tool for churches and church-based organisations?
Professor (em) Kjell Nordstokke presented the conceptual framework vocatio – advocatio – provocatio first at a workshop for German Brot für die Welt, and then at seminars in Norway. It was first outlined in a Norwegian book (Nordstokke 2021, 237). Subsequently it was introduced in a joint publication by the World Council of Churches and ACT Alliance (2022, 8 & 15), initially in the foreword by ACT Alliance General Secretary Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, with no references to Nordstokke. A third publication that applies the conceptual framework is Petra Brooke’s PhD dissertation on the Salvation Army, submitted in 2023; and Brooke has also presented at diakonia research seminars. Hence, it is an emerging conceptual framework.
I have outlined other frameworks relevant for churches and church-based organisations (Haugen 2022), notably human rights principles, with a circle model outlining what should be emphasised in any decision-making process, starting with dignity, and resulting in empowerment, if the other human rights principles (non-discrimination, rule of law, accountability, transparency, participation) are adequately observed. I have also promoted the power cube (Gaventa 2005, reprinted in Haugen 2022, 253) with three dimensions: forms, spaces and places – the latter should rather read levels; the model ignores that power is present also in families/households – identifying diverse forms of inclusion and exclusion.
This paper discusses the value, possible use – by churches and church-based organisations – and limitations of Nordstokke’s conceptual framework.
Senior advisor, Women and Faith, Stefanus Alliance International Oslo, Norway; M.Phil. in Theology from the Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society
“No women, no church”:
the importance of securing women’s FoRB for the survival and future of the persecuted church
According to the recent research conducted by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, statistically Christianity is a women’s movement as women represent the numerical majority in the churches around the world. The contribution of women to the global church is not only numerical. Women are among the most active and effective missionaries globally and they are playing an important role for the survival of the Christian faith since they are often responsible for the religious education of children, thus securing the passing of the faith to the next generation.
In contexts where freedom of religion or belief is under pressure women are crucial for spreading the faith, establishing new communities, and securing the continuation of the existing ones. There are several reasons why they are more effective than men in these contexts. For one, women are often able to stay “under the radar” of the state authorities since they are seen as less important than men. Second, women often have larger social networks and are more creative in their choice of methods, allowing them to spread the faith very effectively. Finally, women show incredible courage and resilience in cases when male leaders have been arrested or are otherwise absent. The survival and future of the persecuted church thus is closely linked to women ability to have FoRB and exercise is freely.
The paper will have two main parts. The first part will contain case studies illustrating the crucial role and impact that women have in churches subjected to persecution and limitations of religious freedom. The second part will provide some suggestions for what could be done to advance women’s FoRB in the context of persecution.
Executive Director, Observatory on Intolerance & Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, Vienna, Austria; BA Transcultural Communication, MA Human Rights, University of Vienna, Austria
Religious Freedom without Freedom of Speech?
A negative trend at European Universities
The King's College in London, released a report in 2020 that found that 25% of students are "reluctant to speak out of fear of negative consequences." Conservative students seem to be particularly affected by the "chilling effect," as the study found that "59 percent of students who identify as conservative voters believe that students with conservative views self-censor on campus." The report also shows that 26 percent of students and 20 percent of the public believe it is acceptable to "use violence" to combat "hate speech."
Unfortunately, these findings do not only hold true for the UK but many other European countries. In our observations and analyses, we found that Christian university students are particularly at risk to self-censor. Christian students are currently experiencing an immense social pressure for holding or voicing opinions, which are in accordance with their belief. The accelerating dynamic of secular intolerance stifles the climate at universities to a point, where vital viewpoints for a holistic and plural discussion are lost. Religion is not regarded as another valid ontology and rationale anymore and is supposed to stay in the limited sphere of the private.
This concerning dynamic is worrying on several levels. First, it possibly leads to a long-lasting structural change, in the sense that if the Christian worldview is completely negated at universities, this potentially means that future power structures and narratives are shaped by only one dominant worldview. Secondly, if the religious freedom and freedom of conscience are unprotected at universities, which are educating young people for various professions, it might be possible that some professions become unpracticable for Christians. Consequently, societies have not become more tolerant and diverse but restricted vital fundamental freedoms of the next generation and therefore the whole of society.
That is the reason why an in-depth inquiry into this problematic dynamic and a healthy discussion on it is very much needed now. Not just for the good of Christians but for the whole of society.
Dr. Santha Kumari Jetty
Ph.D. in History, Jamia Millia University, New Delhi, India, 2017; Ed.D., Columbus State University Georgia, USA, 2023; Indian Christian Rights Advocacy Forum
Promoting Religious Freedom and Rights of Indian Christians through Advocacy Campaigns
This paper examines the effectiveness of the various advocacy campaigns to promote religious freedom and rights of the Indian Christians.
Currently, Christians in India are facing problems with anti-conversion laws, violence against gospel preachers, church property vandalism, and economic penalization of NGOs. Observers might notice that violence against Christians is based on their economically weak and vulnerable position in society, whether they are Dalits or Tribals.
Since the Presidential Order of 1950, Dalit Christians were discriminated against based on their religious preference and debarred from enjoying Government benefits in education, employment, and political opportunities. At present, Dalit Christians are “twice deprived” due to their social status in society. In October 2022, the Central government appointed a commission headed by former Chief Justice of India, KG Balakrishnan, to examine the matter of giving the Scheduled Caste (SC) status to the Dalit communities, which will benefit the Dalit Christians, if recommendations are favorable.
The paper also deals with some of the advocacy organizations such as the All India Christan Federation (AICF), the Indian Christian Rights Advocacy Forum (ICRAF), the All India Christian Council (AICC), the United Christian Forum for Human Rights (UCFHR), the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Federation of Indian Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA) who are working to influence the governments and public opinion at various levels to bring a change in the lives of the Christians in general and Dalit Christians in particular.
Dr. Thorbjörn Johansson
Lecturer in Systematical Theology; Principal, Lutheran School of Theology (Församlingsfakulteten), Gothenburg, Sweden
The nature of the totalitarian state – then and now
Europe in the 20th century experienced several forms of totalitarianism. The National Socialism of Germany and the Communism of the Soviet Union are of course the two most flagrant examples, but there are several examples of milder forms of it as well.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer analyzed the character of the totalitarian state of his time from a distinct Lutheran theological perspective. According to Bonhoeffer, the main problem is not the constitutional form, for example lack of democracy. Even a democratic state can be totalitarian, as well as a non-democratic state does not necessarily have to be totalitarian. The question is instead if certain limits – between family, church, and state – are respected or not.
This paper will present Bonhoeffer’s analysis and use it in a discussion of the modern welfare states. As already Eivind Berggrav saw after WWII, the spiritual freedom is not only threatened by National Socialism, but also by a new kind of state which started developing after the war.
The discussion involves the conception of “the secular”, the limits, and questions related to religious education and the phenomenon of political correctness.
Rev. Dr. Duane Alexander Miller
Associate Professor, Protestant Faculty of Theology at Madrid (UEBE)
Religious Conversion in Spain: historical and contemporary notes
This paper focuses on the changing faces of religious conversion between Islam and Christianity in Spain, focusing on three instances. First, during the period of Islamic hegemony substantial percentages of the population of Spain slowly converted from Christianity to Islam. What were the dynamics behind this gradual conversion? What were the political repercussions?
Second, in the novel Don Quixote there is a curious story of a North African convert from Islam to Christianity. What does this story tell us about the popular imagination in relation to mission and conversion in the age of Don Quixote, the quintessential Spaniard?
And finally, there is a steady stream of conversions from Islam to Christianity in contemporary Spain. Our third section will identify some motives for conversion given and focus on the issue of mission today. How do Spanish churches interpret their call to be a missionary people to and among the growing Muslim population in Spain today?
Rather than analyze one particular instance of mission and conversion in depth, this paper seeks to touch on these three instances—which could no doubt be added to—as a way of elucidating the dynamic and variegated territory of mission that was Spain yesterday and is Spain today.
Doctoral Researcher, Doctoral Programme in Theology and Religoius Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland
Refuge in Jesus Christ: Experiences of refugees in Finland who have converted from Islam to Christianity
In 2015, Finland received a record number of asylum seekers mainly from Muslim majority countries. Christian churches had an active role in helping these people, some also considering this as a mission opportunity and engaging in evangelization. Large numbers of Muslims converted to Christianity (while there are no official statistics, estimates vary from well over a thousand to several thousands). Because conversion can cause persecution and hence be a basis for granting international protection, there has been debate about the sincerity of the conversions. At the same time, people have been converting to different religions throughout history and the life situation of the asylum seekers includes factors that make conversion more likely.
My research seeks to bring a voice to the converts themselves and increase understanding about their own experiences through a data-driven approach. Based on the data gathered in 2017–2018, the participants had lived and were living a process that was deeply challenging socially, psychologically and spiritually, but also restorative. Currently, I’m conducting a follow-up study where I re-interview the same people to explore how their views have evolved after time has passed, and I will also present some initial findings of the ongoing data collection.
Kristina Patring (cancelled)
Advisor Capacity Building, Freedom of Religion or Belief, SMC Faith in Development, Sweden; PhD Student, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit Leuven, Belgium
The challenges of developing an ecumenical non-academic theological e-learning module motivating work on FORB as a human right for all
The SMC - Faith in development has for more than a decade worked with FORB as a human right for all. Today we are an esteemed FORB actor at the national and international level, partly due to the materials on www.forb-learning.org. Our strength is a rights-based approach, experiences of working with broad target groups in several regions and our clarity about FORB for all.
However, in our current strategy we set ourselves the goal of becoming more “bilingual”. We want to increase our ability to speak both the language of rights and the language of faith. We want to listen to those who say “Well human rights, that’s all good – but we do not (yet) feel comfortable with rights language, the language of or hearts is the language of faith. So, if you are going to talk with us about FORB for all, we need to know more about the theological foundations.”
Thus, the task of writing an ecumenical, non-academic theological e-learning module on motivations for FORB work for all – landed on my table. ‘Ecumenical’ here ranges from Eastern Orthodox to Pentecostal to progressive Lutheran to Evangelical to Catholic. The target group consists of development and human rights practitioners as well as ordained clergy and missionaries among our 30 member organisations and their local partners in more than 50 countries. From non-believers and traditional Christians, who need to understand how rights language can be expressed through theology, to theologically trained persons primarily motivated through their faith. To accomplish this is easier said than done.
In order to succeed I’ve decided to focus on four themes; 1) Creation theology and free will; 2) Love your neighbour and diaconia; 3) Discipleship and loyalty to the Kingdom of God; and 4) Missio Dei and ethical evangelisation.
I invite you to follow me along part of the journey this lovely challenge is providing.
Dr. Dennis P. Petri and Dr. Kyle Wisdom
D Petri: International Director, International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF); Professor, Latin American University of Science and Technology (Costa Rica), Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (UNESCO), and Interamerican Center for Social Security Studies
K Wisdom: Deputy Director, IIRF; PhD, Middlesex University and Oxford Centre for Mission Studies
Tracking Religious Freedom Violations with the Violent Incidents Database:
A Methodological Approach and Comparative Analysis
Measuring and comparing religious freedom across countries and over time requires reliable and valid data sources. Existing religious freedom datasets are either based on the coding of qualitative data (such as the Religion and State Project or the Pew Research Center), on expert opinions (V-Dem or the World Watch List) or on surveys (Anti-Defamation League). Each of these approaches has its strengths and limitations, but none of them captures the full spectrum and complexity of religious freedom violations.
In this paper, we present the methodology of the Violent Incidents Database (VID), a novel tool designed to collect, record, and analyze violent incidents related to violations of religious freedom based on media reports and other public sources. We critically describe the criteria and process for selecting, coding and verifying the incidents, as well as the categories and indicators used to classify them.
We also compare the VID with other existing religious freedom datasets, and show how the VID provides a complementary picture of the nature and dynamics of religious freedom violations. We conclude by discussing the implications and limitations of the VID for research on religious freedom, as well as its potential applications for policy makers, advocates, and practitioners. The VID can also be considered as a useful strategy tool for mission.
Dr. Carsten Polanz
Lecturer, Islamic Studies, Gießen School of Theology, Germany; Academic advisor, Institute of Islamic Studies; Executive editor, journal «Islam and Christianity»
Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Examining Current Initiatives on “Human Fraternity” and its Implications for Mission and Religious Freedom
On February 4, 2019, Pope Francis signed a "Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together" jointly with Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyib, Grand Imam of al-Azhar. With this and other initiatives, the United Arab Emirates in particular, under the leadership of Mauritanian jurist Abdullah Bin Bayyah and his "Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies," have attempted in recent years to present themselves internationally as pioneers of interreligious tolerance, a culture of dialogue, and equal citizenship for religious minorities. The United Nations launched an "International Day of Human Fraternity" in 2020, following the document, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres called it a "model for interfaith harmony and human solidarity."
However, the initiatives have not been without criticism. Individual Catholic voices see the sweeping equation of the diversity of religions with the will of God as a betrayal of the heart of the Gospel. Others point to the UAE's poor human rights record and its anti-democratic agenda in the wake of the Arab uprisings. They warn of a "cheap dialogue" and criticize the document for mentioning "freedom of belief" but not freedom to change religion and to bear mutual missionary witness.
This paper will reflect on the "Human Fraternity" project in terms of its implications for Christian mission and general religious freedom, while also considering the current intra-Islamic power struggle between democratic protest movements, Islamist and jihadist resistance groups, and anti-revolutionary regimes. On the basis of important publications, speeches and interviews, it will be examined what understanding of dialogue, of other religions and of the limits of legitimate religious freedom and freedom of expression the two main Muslim protagonists (al-Tayyeb and Bin Bayyah) represent and to what extent they distinguish themselves from extremist groups such as the IS on the one hand and from more far-reaching reform approaches such as the Humanitarian Islam of the Indonesian Nahdlatul Ulama on the other.
Dr. Daniel Roethlisberger
Minister (Pfarrer) in Fluorn, Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Wuerttemberg, Germany; Dr. Phil., Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany, 2018
Assistance and self-help in religious persecution in New Testament times
Christians have suffered persecution ever since Christianity began almost 2000 years ago. In view of the New Testament, this study explores the types and methods of assistance rendered within the Christian community.
The author demonstrates to what extent certain actions or omissions are required, justified and legitimate, or tied to certain conditions, limited to a degree, or in some cases criticized. In addition to the guiding motives, the norms and values underlying the actions are determined. This study also clarifies the extent to which such actions can have prescriptive or paradigmatic significance. The topics addressed include questions of prayer, escape and hiding, material and psychological support, as well as apologetics and legal recourse, the questions regarding counter-violence and the renunciation of such means, and discussions with respect to recovery of the mortal remains of martyrs and their burial.
Additionally, the observation that no New Testament based definition of persecution of Christians has been presented to date, has prompted the author to systematically collect such data. The outcome – the semantic and phenomenological findings on the New Testament – allows to define persecution of Christians.
This paper presents a summary and sensible selection of subjects based on the published doctorate of the author: “Hilfe und Selbsthilfe für verfolgte Christen” (2021).
Prof. Dr. Finn Aa. Rønne
Professor, Church and Mission History, Danish Bible Institut, Kopenhagen, and Fjellhaug International University College, Denmark
Movements of renewal within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
During the last 50 years movements of renewal have frequently appeared within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC), a church tracing its history back to the fourth century and for centuries, until 50 years ago, the national church of Ethiopia. Today it covers 40-45 % of the Ethiopian population.
Some of the movements have eventually been forced out of EOTC while others have continued as distinctive groups within the church – often working more or less in secret. With few exceptions, the renewal movements have been in opposition to and suppressed by the influential circles in the church. This makes the movements a case for the question of religious freedom.
The renewal movements within EOTC actually have a long history. They go back as far as the 15th century with the reform movement of Estifanos that later movements of renewal often consider as their religious forebears. And the history of persecution of the movements is as long as that of the movements themselves. Often the movements have been associated with foreign missions and foreign powers which is part of the reason for the various degrees of persecution. So the lack of religious freedom for these movements has to be seen in the light of Ethiopian state politics at a larger scale.
At the same time, we have clear links between the renewal movements and many of the modern Protestant churches in Ethiopia. One of the largest Ethiopian Protestant churches, The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, for instance, traces its origin back partly to such a renewal movement within EOTC and partly to the work of Western missions.
The study is based on information gathered by students at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology – information normally not easily accessible to Western scholars.
Prof. Dr. Arndt Elmar Schnepper
Professor, Practical Theology, Theologische Hochschule Ewersbach, Germany
Religious everyday communication under pressure
Along with preaching, so-called "everyday evangelism" is one of the oldest and most distinguished forms of missionary communication. In the early Christianity, this "capillary mission" (Michael Sievernich) succeeded in slowly spreading the Gospel through many small channels and thus changing ancient society. In modern times, it was above all Pietism that revived this form, as documented, for example, in Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf’s writing "Sonderbare Gespräche" (1739).
Even though the role of religious everyday communication is emphasised again and again in church publications, it tends to lead a shadowy existence in theological studies. In addition, fewer and fewer Christians in Germany are discussing their beliefs in public. The current Church Membership Survey (KMU) of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) states that German Protestants only talk about religious issues in their micro-networks such as the family.
This finding is in striking contrast to the legal framework. In its document "Rede frei", published in 2019, the Evangelical Alliance in Germany (EAD), for example, underlines: personal beliefs can and may be lived out in public - be it at school, at university or at work. Faith does not have to hide in the private sphere. Similar publications also come from the Evangelical Alliance in the UK ("Speak up!") and the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France ("Libre de le dire").
My paper examines two things: on the one hand, it analyses the barriers to thematisation to which religious communication is subject today. On the other hand, it outlines a way in which an individually perceived lack of freedom can be relieved. With the help of considerations from so-called symbol didactics, the contribution pleads for a conscious use of signs and sign-like forms of action that enable "everyday evangelism".
Rev. Dr. Adamson A. Shaba
DTh/PhD Unisa; Outreach Coordinator, Evangelical Missionary Society of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Nigeria; Lecturer, JETS, TCNN, Visiting lecturer WATS, Nigeria
A Christian lifestyle as a key to bearing witness in a hostile context:
A case study on Kano, Northern Nigeria
Based on a doctorate on a sustainable Christian outreach strategy in Kano, Northern Nigeria, this paper examines biblical perspectives on Christian witnessing in a context of mainly hostile Christian-Muslim relations. It contains a summary of historical developments spanning a century, as well as empirical contextual and practical research, combined with textual and theoretical reflexions.
Mission activities in Kano state are analyzed, focusing on the four blocks of denominations identified in the context: Evangelical, ecumenical, Pentecostals and African Initiated Churches. The analysis reveals cases of introversion. Measured by biblical injunctions earlier established, their efforts were not as fruitful as could have been expected. A more appropriate approach to transmitting the message of the gospel needs to be identified.
A praxis called ‘neighbourology’ is proposed, emphasizing the employment of any necessary means to break down the barriers to effective transmission of the Gospel message. Necessary socio-cultural factors to achieve this are considered.
The study develops a three pronged theology and praxis: (1) A Christian lifestyle of hope based in love, expressing Christian spirituality in bearing witness, expected to bring about transformation. (2) A theology of ‘presence and patience.’ The presence and patience of gospel messengers is expected to either attract people of other faiths to Christ’s kingdom or to repel them. (3) A contextual theology of economic development to facilitate a holistic transmission of the gospel of love and hope.
As a practical example of the positive results such an apporach has brought about over the years, Gidan Bege, House of Christian Hope Ministries, is presented. In conclusion, several recommendations are given, including the need for training, purposeful networking among field workers, and a better convert care program, which will help pastors and missionaries to carry out their evangelistic ministry more effectively.
Rev. Mukunda Sharma
PhD Student in Theology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa; Senior Pastor, Bethel Assembly Church, Bhaktapur, Nepal; Executive Secretary of Nepal Christian Society (Evangelical Alliance)
Opportunities and limitations of religious freedom and Christian mission:
A case study on contemporary Nepal
--- Abstract to be supplied ---
Prof. Dr. Christoph W. Stenschke
Professor in New Testament Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa and Biblisch-Theologische Akademie, Forum Wiedenest, Germany
Mission and co-existence/co-operation in the Book of Acts
This presentation focuses on the Book of Acts which contains the first systematic account of some strands of the earliest Christian mission. At first sight, the book abounds with conflicts of various sorts and the suffering of Christ-believers to which their missionary efforts led on some occasions.
However, in wake of recent theorising about religious conflict (Meyer 2013), some aspects of “religious freedom” can also be detected on its pages. Although neither the expression nor the concept occurs explicitly, there are, in the midst of intensive missionary activities and before, amidst and after, at times, serious conflicts, not only instances of de-escalation or resolution of conflict, but also instances of more or less peaceful co-existence and perhaps even some co-operation between Jews and Jewish Christ-followers in Jerusalem and in the Jewish Diaspora and between Gentiles and Christian missionaries. Such co-existence and co-operation created or, at least, allowed for a climate conducive to transition and co-operation.
The presentation seeks to identify these instances, analyse them and understand what factors made these more desirable forms of interactions between representatives of different faiths and practices possible and at what points conflict arose and why. A concluding section proposes some implications for the missionary endeavour of the church in our day and age and in places where religious freedom, how it is commonly understood in a Western context, still has a long way to go.