In the world of religious freedom and advocacy, one can be forgiven for thinking all anyone ever does is call out countries where egregious acts of persecution are taking place. Yet, this is what makes the news, and it is, after all, a very important part of advocacy.
At Open Doors USA, however, we realize this is only the first step. The goal of the World Watch List and other awareness–raising tools is to initiate action on the part of the global Church, and to encourage influential leaders to raise their voice in support of religious freedom. This means much more than just pointing out the issues—it means actively trying to fix those issues.
What does this look like? Usually, it starts with a conversation. We bring an issue and a suggested solution to members of Congress, or the White House, and ask them to raise these issues directly with other governments. In the easiest of cases that resolves the issue. Most of the time, it’s a lot more work.
One of the key points to communicate in these conversations is that we don’t want countries to be on the World Watch List. We believe it’s in every country’s best interest to ensure religious freedom. Studies show ensuring fundamental rights strengthens a nation’s economy and increases happiness across the population. It also helps build trust with allies and partners around the world.
Does this mean strong action isn’t sometimes necessary? Of course not. In 2021, Open Doors USA supported serious efforts to limit the use of religious minorities for forced labor in China, encouraged the U.S. State Department to consider possible sanctions against India and other countries for egregious violations of religious freedom, and generally urged the Biden administration to act quickly and firmly to address the worst persecution against Christians.
At the same time, we highlight when governments move in a positive direction. Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Sudan and Egypt to various degrees over the past two decades have made efforts to try and improve basic rights. Though these efforts often still fall short, they are usually rightly rewarded with the lifting of sanctions and increased aid.
In the end, we know we cannot eliminate all forms of persecution. Both Scripture and historical example make this clear. We can, however, work to improve conditions for the persecuted, and at the same time demonstrate our love for those who are committing persecution by making clear that we want what’s best for all involved. After all, Jesus instructs us in Matthew 5:44 to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
The vision of Open Doors USA advocacy is to bring relief to the persecuted, while demonstrating to those who commit persecution there is a different and better way. That means we never give up hope that one day, as impossible as it may seem, North Korea and Afghanistan will not even be found on the World Watch List. Until that day, we’ll not stop praying and advocating for the freedom to follow Jesus.