WASHINGTON, DC – A recent meeting of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom declared that “Places of worship and other religious sites should be sanctuaries where worshipers feel safe to practice their faith.”
Based on statements made at meetings of, or contained within documentation published by, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination on Religion or Belief, the commission warned nations that,
“An intentional attack on a place of worship or cultural property may be considered a war crime.”
The commission cited seven examples of assaults on places of worship committed during the first nine months of 2019.
- Violent attacks aimed to destroy places of worship and instill fear in the worshipers.
- Destruction and demolition of places of worship as part of a broader campaign to restrict the religious practices of a particular group.
- Seizure of properties that are places of worship, leaving worshipers’ unable to gather together to exercise the worship aspects of their faith.
- Vandalism, which serves no purpose other than to threaten and intimidate worshipers.
- Surveillance by state officials demanded under the guise of monitoring for security purposes.
- Restrictions on construction in a discriminatory manner that provides liberties for some while arbitrarily restricting others from building or renovating places of worship.
- Restrictions on property rights that are designed to make it difficult or impossible to gather in a place suitable for worshipers.
Sam Brownback, the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom addressed the committee, calling the global attacks on places of worship as “a war on faith” and promoting the need to respect, protect, and restore” those sites.
Committee chair, Tony Perkins, emphasized that individual nation-states have a responsibility to preserve the sanctity of “sacred spaces” and ensure that those spaces do not become targets for “unimaginable sites of bloodshed” or other forms of persecution.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice had created the Protecting Places of Worship Forum specifically to address similar issues in our country, the three-fold goal of the PPWF is to:
- Educate communities on hate crime prevention and response.
- Provide communities with best practices and resources on how to secure houses of worship and respond in active shooter situations.
- Improve relations between government agencies and faith leaders in the community.
The truth is that committees and forums can do little more than make statements and proclamations, neither of which are ultimately effective in changing the hearts of sinners. However, the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man can prevail when nothing else can.
Pray without ceasing.
To read more news on Human Rights Issues on Missions Box, go here.
- USCIRF, Protecting Places of Worship and Holy Sites
- US Department of Justice, Protecting Places of Worship Forum
- Hill Happenings, Protecting Houses of Worship and Holy Sites