In the United States, we tend to take Religious Freedom for granted. Not so in much of the world.
In recent years, the world has watched the brutal clashes between religions in Jos, Nigeria, and Orissa, India. We have heard, first hand, the stories of the persecution of house churches in China, the Bahá'ís in Iran, and the recent bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt. There is growing concern over the lack of tolerance between faiths, particularly as the Muslim and Christian and secular worlds collide. Globally, violations and threats to international religious freedom are increasing at an alarming rate. But, in addition to blatant incidents of religious persecutions, other violators have altered their methods of restricting religion. The restrictions become less obvious, more subtle and pragmatic. Instead of public proclamations or uses of force, international governments apply technicalities or stonewall religious believers.
This year’s Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics conference will address, "A Call for International Religious Freedom." We selected this topic as a matter of urgency.
But how can an ordinary individual or an ordinary religious congregation respond to such problems? As we look ahead in this new decade, religious freedom weighs heavy on our minds. From the violent clashes of religions to the technicalities restricting worship, the Nootbaar Institute conference will explore the state of religious freedom and how we should respond.
The conference will include speakers who have worked for religious freedom in government positions, for NGOs, and as private citizens. It will also include two speakers who have personally been subject to religious persecution in other countries. They will serve as our witnesses to the brutality and the impact of that persecution.
Robert F. Cochran, Jr.
Director, Nootbaar Institute and Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law
Associate Director, Nootbaar Institute and Director, Global Justice Program