Non-Indigenous or Multinational NGOs
- Continue to advocate both for individuals and for persecuted church communities, documenting violations and rigorously verifying information.
- Campaign in a spirit of solidarity, mobilizing prayer for those who are suffering, showing solidarity through visits, and writing to prisoners. Provide resources for persecuted communities, including Bibles, training for pastors and other leaders, and humanitarian relief and development assistance.
- Advocacy should always be driven by the needs of the persecuted churches NGOs serve. Draft guidelines on how to “do no harm,” covering, for example, not publicizing situations that could endanger persecuted churches, unless those in harm’s way specifically request publicity and protest. Listen to persecuted churches, who know the challenges firsthand, even if their communications are not expressed in ways that NGOs find easy to assimilate or understand.
- Situate advocacy for persecuted churches in the culture in which those churches live and operate, especially in public documents. For example, terms such as “freedom” will be understood very differently outside of a liberal democratic setting. Avoid using language that delegitimizes the ancient presence of Christians in the Middle East and plays into the narrative that they are a Western “fifth column.” Where caste dynamics are relevant, it is important that NGO staff understand them so as to avoid misunderstanding the underlying motivation of persecution and discrimination.
- Develop local partnerships between indigenous organizations such as NGOs and persecuted churches to provide information, show solidarity with the churches, and ensure one has a mandate to act on their behalf.
- Establish networks that include your organization, persecuted churches, and a broad range of global actors that serve to communicate the experiences of particular persecuted churches to the rest of the world, including other persecuted churches.
- Where appropriate, encourage churches to be engaged in the civic life of the community, meeting the needs of the community and serving the common good.
- Mobilize diaspora communities from countries where persecution occurs (e.g., UK citizens of Pakistani origin or American citizens of Chinese origin) to speak up for Christians in their country of origin.
- When challenging persecutor governments, select an appropriate strategy ranging from “name and shame” to quiet, behind-the-scenes constructive engagement such as encouraging small steps of reform and stressing that religious freedom is in the best interest of governments.
- Advocate for other religious minorities as well as for Christians—for instance, for Muslims in Sri Lanka, India, and Burma, and for Baha’is and non-Shia Muslims in Iran. This appeals to secular policymakers and makes it more difficult for persecutors to pick off minorities one by one. Christian NGOs (and Christians in general) have a biblical and theological mandate to promote religious freedom for all.
- As much as possible, speak to governments and international organizations with one voice across denominations and religious communities. Ecumenical and concerted efforts to engage them are much more effective.
Create broad-based faith and non-faith coalitions on specific issues where appropriate. Ally with human rights groups to advocate for human rights across the board in countries with a range of such violations, since an overall improvement in human rights will always benefit religious freedom. Help secular human rights NGOs to understand that a society that does not protect religious freedom is unlikely to protect other human rights.
Be prepared to use non–human rights language as well, appealing to self-interest, peace, and stability, especially when engaging with China, India, Russia, Muslim-majority nations, and other states that are suspicious of or hostile to international human rights norms.
Emphasize the broad, positive social effect of increasing religious freedom, stressing those effects with greatest salience in particular countries, such as economic growth (China), long-term democratic stability (Egypt), or decreased religious extremism and violence (Iraq).
Especially in conflict areas and failing states, promote peace-building and reconciliation initiatives to rebuild the stability needed to protect and promote religious freedom.
Help Western policymakers raise their levels of religious literacy as they try to understand a world where religion is almost always a vitally important factor. Furthermore, help Western policymakers understand the pragmatic benefits of religious freedom, that is, how religious freedom correlates closely with and contributes to key foreign policy and security concerns.
Do not limit lobbying to governments and international organizations. For example, consider lobbying international companies on religious freedom issues in countries where they operate, and encourage them to work with NGOs that promote human rights and corporate social responsibility.
In regions with religious or ethnic minorities, encourage the development of historical narratives that include the contribution of those minorities to national stories. Ensure the dissemination of these stories both in the home country, as a reminder to the authorities of the value of these religious communities, and in the West, so policymakers there can reinforce this narrative to the persecuting governments. These narratives also help to preserve memories of Christian communities that are in danger of being lost.