Cooperative work on international religious freedom

March 5, 2021

After telling the lawyer a parable about a man lying on the road to Jericho and the Samaritan who stopped to help him, Jesus asked him a question: “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 

“The one who showed mercy to him,” the lawyer said.

Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37 CSB)

As the lawyer learned that day, the call to love our neighbors has no boundary, whether ethnic, cultural, or geographical. Nor does our call to love our brothers and sisters in Christ — those who “belong to the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:10 CSB)

It is this impulse that draws us to fight for religious freedom for all, to defend the human dignity of all people, and to work to keep the door open for the gospel in places far from the United States.

Much of this work is within the global halls of power, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council or the UN General Assembly. There, we work to bear witness to a vision of religious freedom for every person made in the image of God and to call for governments to provide freedom of religion and conscience and to recognize their lack of jurisdiction in those spheres.

This work is informed by our friends and partners at the International Mission Board. IMB leaders have been living and working in difficult places where freedom is restricted for decades, and we rely and lean on their local expertise and relationships to inform our strategy and message, to help determine when and where to focus our efforts and advocacy, and to identify areas of concern.

Much of our international work is behind the scenes. For instance, we might support the work of IMB leaders to find safe passage for a new believer facing persecution or work quietly for the release of a local religious leader who has been arrested for his faith. But in every case, our aim is to ensure that those carrying forth the message of the gospel are supported in their efforts. As far as possible, we endeavor to see that these critical partners are free to pursue their mission.

With all Southern Baptists, we stand in awe of the courage and faithfulness of our IMB friends all around the world. These courageous men and women have “left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:29). The ERLC will continue to do all we can to ensure their work can move forward.

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