01: On April 1, a new initiative to monitor religious and human rights abuses worldwide was recently founded. The new initiative, called First Step Forum, was founded at a gathering of ambassadors, religious liberty experts, members of parliaments from several European countries and members of the media in Berlin in January. The Forum is co-chaired by Mrs. Eija-Riita Korhola, member of the European Parliament, and Ambassador Richard Seiple, former US ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom.
It grew out of the work of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Religious Liberty Commission. In 2001 the commission identified three phases in cases where religious liberty is threatened: first, disinformation; second, discrimination, and third, persecution. At every step, the State can play either a passive or an active role, according to the commission..The primary aim of the Forum is obviously to intervene during the earlier phases.
In answer to questions from RW, Rev. Johan Candelin, Executive Director of the WEA Religious Liberty Commission, explained that the Forum intends “to take the first step to stop” what could lead to future persecutions. It intends to act “proactively, behind the scenes in partnership with governments or organizations with a similar interest.”
For instance, it will “monitor public and media statements for evidence of ‘disinformation’ against any religious group” (i.e. information deliberately designed to mislead). Due to the nature of its work, the Forum won’t have a Website. Most of the information will come from the global network of churches connected with the WEA in 114 countries, said Candelin.
(Source: News release from the WEA, April 5; WEA website: http://www.worldevangelical.org).
— By Jean-François Mayer