The World Assemblies of God Fellowship (WAGF) has led the Commission on Religious Liberty (CRL) for more than a decade. The Pentecostal World Fellowship (PWF), also recognizing the need of persecuted Christians around the world, asked the PWF World Missions Commission (WMC) to attend to the concern. In 2016, the World Missions Commission established a Task Force for Religious Liberty.
In 2015, Pastor Max Schläpfer, Chairman of the Commission on Religious Liberty, invited Dr. Arto Hämäläinen, Chairman of the PWF World Missions Commission, to collaborate on such efforts. This led to a proposal to merge the WAGF Commission on Religious Liberty and the PWF World Missions Commission Task Force for Religious Liberty. Both the WAGF and PWF accepted this proposal, and the joint commission was named the Pentecostal Commission on Religious Liberty. Pastor Schläpfer served as its first chairman in 2019, followed by Dr. Hämäläinen, who was elected at the start of 2020.
Dr. Arto Hämäläinen, Finland
Rauli Lehtonen, Sweden
Religious freedom is violated in our world in three different ways: through discrimination, persecution, and martyrdom. Discrimination takes place even in countries claiming religious liberty, including Western nations. In many nations, there is increasing intolerance of Biblical values. According to Open Doors, 260 million Christians are experiencing severe persecution. Many believers have been martyred. Over 4,000 Christians were killed in 2018 because of their faith. Unfortunately, we do not see adequate media coverage of these crimes. Often the victims live in remote areas and are poor people with little influence. They should, however, not be unknown to us as fellow believers.
What can we do for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ? There are at least three different opportunities:
First, we can pray for them. The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) each November offers a powerful annual focus on this issue. The Pentecostal Commission on Religious Liberty (PCRL) provides a package of information to the churches within both the World Assemblies of God Fellowship and the Pentecostal World Fellowship, representing about 100 million believers. The information package could be shared with other networks on IDOP and could have a greater reach throughout the year.
Second, we can provide advocacy. Writing letters or emails to the embassies of nations violating the rights of churches and believers could have a potentially powerful impact. PCRL is willing to develop actions by meeting with key authorities in particular countries and working together with other like-minded organizations to give a voice to persecuted and discriminated people.
Third, we can provide financial support. Those who have lost homes and possessions need material assistance. We need to grow the partnership between Pentecostal fellowships in member nations to provide an allied humanitarian response - as called for by the apostle Paul. Our humanitarian assistance organizations are in key roles as well.
We need to remind ourselves and fellow believers about the words from the writer of the letter to Hebrews: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3
Dr. Arto Hämäläinen