Geneva, Switzerland | Bettina Krause

A growing climate of hostility towards religious minorities in Europe is out of keeping with the democratic ideal of religious freedom, Seventh-day Adventist pastor Malton Braff told the United Nations Human Rights Commission on April 6.

Representing the public affairs and religious liberty department of the world Church, Braff told UN delegates that “honest believers are facing difficulties” as governments-including those in France, Belgium and other European countries-are confusing minority religions with dangerous sects and cults.

“We believe that there are many other ways to control and stop these dangerous groups,” Braff said, noting that the repression of human rights is never justified.

Braff’s speech to the UN comes amid continuing concern in international religious and civil rights communities over policies adopted by some European governments in recent years-ranging from setting up committees to investigate smaller religious groups to requiring the registration of non-mainstream religious organizations.

Calling these policies out of touch with both public feeling and international human rights treaties, Braff said “We believe that governments must protect religious freedom, and they will do this by protecting and promoting human rights.”

Dr. John Graz, director of public affairs and religious liberty at the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, reaffirms the Church’s commitment to promoting religious liberty throughout the world, for all people of faith.

“In its 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations listed religious freedom as one of the ‘equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family,’” says Graz. “As a Church, therefore, we will continue to oppose government practices and regulations that abridge this fundamental freedom by discriminating against minority religions.”