Christian Organizations Defend Religious Liberty for Malaysians at the United Nations

The Southern Baptist Convention’s religious freedom entity and other advocacy organizations have expressed concern to the United Nations regarding the Malaysian government’s continued refusal to protect the right of all citizens to practice their faith.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) in a March 5 statement regarding the Muslim majority country to the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The statement was read during the UNHRC’s latest meeting, which was Feb. 25 to March 22 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ERLC and its allies responded to the disappointing reaction by a newly elected government in the Southeast Asian country to recommendations made previously by UNHRC member states. The new ruling coalition — representing the only regime change since Malaysia gained its independence in 1957 — failed to live up to the hopes of religious minorities after its election in May 2018.

In the statement, the religious liberty advocates expressed “deep regret” over the new government’s rejection of nine of the 10 recommendations by UNHRC members to address “the deteriorating situation” for freedom of belief in Malaysia.

The statement said the organizations are “highly concerned” the Malaysian government is only willing to protect religious liberty within its constitutional framework and not to live up to the international human rights standards that include the freedom to change religion or belief.

“Indeed, while the Malaysian Constitution provides for laws to control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing Islam, this provision has been used to enact anti-propagation enactments that prohibit the free expression of individuals and the manifestation of religious practices of minority religious groups,” the statement said.

In the statement, the ERLC and its allies urged Malaysia “to put an end to such restrictions” and guarantee equal human rights for all citizens.

The statement — organized by ADF International — specifically declared its disappointment with the Malaysian government’s unwillingness to delete religious status from required identity cards.

Travis Wussow, the ERLC’s general counsel and vice president for public policy, told Baptist Press, “The Malaysian government’s decision to reject nine out of 10 recommendations related to religious freedom is a significant setback for the hopes of Christians and other religious minorities. Christians had been hoping the new Malaysian government elected last year would bring a series of fresh reforms, but the future of interreligious peace and harmony in Malaysia is uncertain as ever.

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Source: Baptist Press