ON-Lion Letter

The relationship between religious proselytism and development is sharply contested.  International covenants recognize that religious freedom includes rights to personal religious conversion and public religious witness, but critics claim that proselytism can violate the rights of affected communities to maintain their traditions and can sow division in fragile societies. 

There is wide agreement that development aid should never be conditioned on religious conversion.  Disagreement centers on whether, when, and how a vigorous religious marketplace -- including the freedom to proselytize -- fosters social dynamism and development or, on the contrary, social division that undercuts development goals.

In March, the Religious Freedom Project of Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs hosted a day-long public dialogue about the subject.  During the day, three panels of distinguished religious leaders, development practitioners, and scholars examined relevant issues from diverse perspectives.  A keynote conversation featured Pastor Rick Warren, founder of Saddleback Church, and Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports the Religious Freedom Project, which partnered with the Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion on the effort.

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