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How Coronavirus Is Affecting Religious Freedom

Save the Persecuted Christians Points to New USCIRF Report, Outlining How Religious Liberties Are Being Impacted in China, South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Italy and More

March 24, 2020

WASHINGTON—The worldwide coronavirus pandemic is affecting every aspect of life: family, education, work and business. For millions around the globe, COVID-19 is also affecting religious freedom.

Save the Persecuted Christians (STPC), which advocates on behalf of hundreds of millions of Christians facing heavy persecution worldwide, is pointing to a new fact sheet from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which states: “Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in December 2019,

governments have begun implementing various public health interventions to control the spread of the illness. These interventions have impacted billions of people worldwide and often involve large public programs, restrictions on freedom of movement, and government management of critical resources.”

The mission of Save the Persecuted Christians is to save lives and save souls by disseminating actionable information about the magnitude of the persecution taking place globally and by mobilizing concerned Americans for the purpose of disincentivizing further attacks on those who follow Jesus. And the manner in which the coronavirus has further impacted religious liberties has been worrisome, said STPC Executive Director Dede Laugesen.

“When the world deals with a crisis such as this—the coronavirus pandemic—religious freedom is often affected first, especially in countries that are closed off to Christianity,” Laugesen said. “Situations like these also create opportunities for persecutors to exploit the crisis and operate with a greater sense of impunity. Therefore, it remains imperative for believers who do enjoy religious liberties to continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are at risk of anti-Christian violence.”

The USCIRF fact sheet continues:

“It is important for governments to account for religious freedom concerns in their responses to COVID-19, for reasons of both legality and policy effectiveness. From a legal perspective, international law requires governments to preserve individual human rights, including religious freedom, when taking measures to protect public health even in times of crisis. From an efficacy perspective, considering religious freedom concerns can help build trust between governments and religious groups, who in past public health crises have played a critical role in delivering health interventions.”

In the fact sheet, USCIRF also points to international standards on freedom of religion or belief and public health. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) are the primary international provisions securing the freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) under international human rights law. Both use similar language in providing robust protections to FoRB, and in defining the narrow circumstances under which states may lawfully limit it in furtherance of an identified state interest, including public health.

The USCIRF document aims to educate all about countries where the government or societal response to COVID-19 is impacting freedom of religion:

With so much of the world’s Christian population being imprisoned and/or harassed for their beliefs, the need has never been greater for the sort of grassroots campaign STPC’s SaveUs Movement is working to foster. Its efforts are modeled after a miraculously successful one that helped free another population suffering from heavy persecution—Soviet Jews—by penalizing those in the Kremlin responsible for such repression. Through this movement, Save the Persecuted Christians endeavors to provide American policymakers with the popular support they need to effect real change worldwide and alleviate systemically the suffering being experienced by so many of those following Christ.


To interview a Save the Persecuted Christians representative, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Patrick Benner, 610.584.1096, ext. 104, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.