In an open letter sent on May 13, international religious freedom experts urged the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to continue the mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU.
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. The role of the Special Envoy for the promotion of religion or belief outside the EU has been vital in standing up for those who are unable to freely practice their faith,” said Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom at ADF International, the faith-based legal advocacy organisation that co-signed the letter.
The experts also cited the continuously growing number of attacks on freedom of thought, conscience, and religion worldwide, and called on the EU to take over a leading role in safeguarding those rights.
“With its Special Envoy, the EU has led in the international response, and that leadership is needed now more than ever” the experts said.
The attacks could take the form of blasphemy, anti-conversion laws, severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the free practice of religion, or physical attacks on people targeted because of their religion or belief, they added.
Especially during the Coronavirus pandemic, the “countless” prisoners of conscience are suffering appalling circumstances, being exceptionally vulnerable to the virus, their letter reads.