News Release

LDS CHURCH, LEADING LIGHT IN RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN AFRICA

Leaders from both west and southeast regions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Africa, representing over 400,000 Church members, were joined by guests for symposium on religious freedom.

 

Leaders from both west and southeast regions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Africa, representing over 400,000 Church members, joined by senior officials of the European Union and the United Nations were welcomed as guests and participants to the 5th annual African Law and Religion Symposium held in Morocco this week.

The theme of the event was ‘Law, Religion and Security’.

The event was held in the ancient walled city of Rabat, the capital city of Morocco, a progressive Muslim state in North Africa.  Morocco was the location of a key meeting held in 2016 where over 100 religious scholars, mostly from Islamic nations, met to respond to human rights’ violations, terrorism and the persecution of minorities.  They signed the Marrakesh Declaration of 2016 to give ‘defence to the defenceless and a voice to the voiceless’. 

This recent event was an appropriate follow-up, as law-makers, judiciaries and legal structures, to a great extent, determine the boundaries of human liberty, and can effect real change.  Sir Malcolm D. Evans, Chair UN Subcommittee of Prevention of Torture said that religion is actually growing around the world, there are more people on the earth today who are religious than ever before in the world’s history, he continued to say that sadly, however, 74% of the entire world’s population live under high or very high restrictions to their religious liberty.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a principle sponsor of such events through its Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School.  These initiatives seek to prevent human rights violations, protect religious liberty and enforce or develop legal frameworks that punish perpetrators.  The Church itself is very familiar with religious persecution especially in its early days. The Church’s founding father and first prophet, Joseph Smith who would be martyred at age 34 for his religious beliefs, was a pioneer of human rights.  Before he died, not only did he vigorously oppose the prevailing slave-trade but also defended religious liberty for all, “I am bold to declare before heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist or a good man of any other denomination, for the same principle that would trample on the rights of a Latter-day Saint would trample on the rights of Roman Catholic or any other denomination,’ he said.

The symposium debates and presentations from academics and leaders from more than 25 countries were frank and lively, Sir Malcolm Evans summed it up when he said,” religion is more valuable now to people for their protection than governments are”,  he said, “proper respect for religious freedom is essential for global security..  Honestly”, he continued, “It is the only real solution.”

Follow up will occur in May 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria.

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