Religious Freedom, Persecution and Mission

IAMS Study Group “Religious Freedom, Persecution and Mission”

Contact for study group:

Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer, Rathenaustrasse 5-7, 35394 Gießen, Email: Christof(at)

Dr. Wolfgang Häde (co-convenor): wghaede(at)



Symposium on Religious Freedom and Forced Faith. Oslo, 22-23 September 2021

The IAMS study group on Religious Freedom, Persecution and Mission welcomes the symposium on Religious Freedom and Forced Faith held by Fjellhaug International University College (FIUC) 22-23 September 2021 in Oslo, Norway. It  focuses on issues such as social control, religious compulsion, religious persecution, multireligious coexistence, Christian mission, and religious freedom.

The chairperson of the IAMS study group will give the first keynote lecture and other IAMS members will present papers.

More information here:



Call for Papers for Study Group “Religious Freedom, Persecution and Mission” at IAMS General Assembly in Sydney (11/19)

Mission and religious freedom or persecution in the midst of powers, inequalities, and vulnerabilities

In addition to the general call for papers found on the IAMS website, please note the following:

You can submit proposals for this study group in line with the general conference topic overlapping with the study group, or papers specific only to our study group that have nothing to do with the current conference topic.

Please note the full scope of our study group. It is not only covering Freedom of Religion or Belief. It is also covering any aspect that has to do with persecution, suffering for Christ and even martyrdom. That is, as long as it is connected to mission and witness. And of course, it should be of missiological relevance. This would usually mean critically studying matters from any of the sub-disciplines of mission studies. This could be for example, theology of mission and its biblical basis, mission history, intercultural theology, aspects of religious studies, practical and applied missiology, etc. It could also be from the angle of any non-theological academic discipline, if the subject matter is central to the parameters of the study group.

Looking at the conference topic and its subsections, the following associations come to mind:

Mission in a wounded world

Persecution happens in a context of a broken world. Christians are affected along with other people in their contexts by wars, famines, dictatorship, failed states, corruption, pests and pollution, and many other factors. Their mission happens in this context. It is a question for research how this wounded and broken world impacts on their mission – e.g. as a challenge, as a hindering factor, as an exacerbating factor of persecution. This also challenges how to go about Christian mission in a wounded world in a wise way, in order not to unnecessarily provoke or trigger persecution.


Persecution and restrictions of religious freedom with regards to the public manifestation and propagation of a faith are very much linked to powers, that seek to gain absolute control over society and or to maintain their benefit from that. This could be governments and their arms, political parties, religious entities and their leaders, societal groups, economic or criminal power structures, opinion shapers, or competing – often majority – Christian groups. Christian mission (or that of a particular brand) gets in their way and therefore encounters opposition, prohibitions, social marginalization, or verbal and violent attacks.

There are also aspects in religious persecution of Christians that point to powers in the invisible world that make use of human agency and other means to thwart and hinder Christ’s mission and God’s purposes in the world. At least, this a narrative that we can discover in Scripture and which has been widely understood in Church and mission history.


Recent research has uncovered how men, women and children are each differently affected by persecution against Christians. This has wide ranging implications for mission in the respective contexts.

Discrimination, as singling out one group for different treatment, be it positive or negative, also has wide ranging implications for Christian mission.

Very often the context of origin of a missionary and the context of service are very unequal. Frequently missionary concepts and strategies have been shaped by contexts where Christians have been under little pressure for their faith and often show limited sensitivity to concerns arising from restrictions of religious freedom and persecution.


People following the call of Christ, turning away from previous allegiances, will usually be exposed to increased vulnerabilities due to hostile societies or governments. What does this mean for responsible Christian mission?

Christians transitioning for the sake of the mission of Christ into context where Christians face more pressure will also face increased vulnerabilities to harm due to their mission. The question arises for sending churches and agencies how to theologically and practically deal with the increased risk and how to weigh the costs responsibly.

These are just some associations triggered by the general topic leading to research questions this study group might examine in the context of this conference. You will certainly find additional areas of overlap between your research interests and fields of expertise and the conference topic. If in doubt, you are welcome to consult us.

So, we encourage you to submit a proposal and to specifically state that it is for the study group “Religious Freedom”. Follow the procedures given in the general call for papers and submit to the address given there. It would however be helpful if you copy us, so we are aware of your paper proposal and its affiliation with this study group.

Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer (convenor)

Dr. Wolfgang Häde (co-convenor):


Call for Papers (02/19)

For the Scholarly Track of
Gender and Religious Freedom Consultation
Abuja, Nigeria,
28 March 2019,17:00 – 30 March 2019, 16:00

Gender and Religious Freedom Forum (formerly known as Christian Women under Pressure for their Faith) is a global forum that recognizes the complex nature of gender-specific persecution. In order to continue the learning and collaboration from our previous consultations, we are hosting a two and a half- day Consultation in Abuja, Nigeria. The Consultation will explore the details of how men and women are denied freedom of religion in practice as well as probing the multi-disciplinary ways in which Christians can act to promote and protect individual freedom of religion by addressing global gender-specific trends both inside and outside of the Church.
We have invited national church leaders, practitioners, academics and advocates to examine together avenues for action in order that in working together we can unlock and increase resilience in Christian communities.

Similarly, to previous consultation, this year’s consultation will include a Scholarly Track. For the Scholarly Track of the Consultation academics and researchers are invited to submit proposals of papers. Up to 6 academic papers related to the topic of the consultation will be considered. The paper proposals should reflect on one of the following themes:
• Intersection between gender and religious persecution;
• Gender sensitive understanding of different aspects of persecution (domestic, social, legal, economic, etc)
• Resilience to persecution approached from a gender perspective
• Gender specific, faith-based strategies to counter persecution, such as trauma care, socio-economic development, theological reflection, etc.

These papers might be published in post-conference outlets, such as the International Journal for Religious Freedom subject to peer review.

As this is a working consultation to explore issues and bring together expertise of scholars and practitioners, the presenters at the Scholarly track are expected to attend the whole consultation and give informal input to the plenary sessions and group discussions.

Proposals must be submitted by February 28th 2019 to
Proposals should not exceed one page, and must include working title, abstract, academic position and institution and full contact details.

We apologize for the lateness of the call! We would appreciate a response at your earliest

Guidelines for writing paper:
1. Papers presented during the conference are not to exceed 2000 words (without footnotes
and references) or 20 minutes to allow 10 minutes to be allocated to questions and answers.
2. If papers are to be published in post-conference outlets (e.g. IJRF) they may be developed
depending on the guidelines of the journal/ publisher.

Please do not forget to also register for the CONSULTATION
To book, go to where you will find
additional information and the link to the RLP website. This Consultation immediately follows
the 2019 Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) Consultation in Abuja and you would also be
welcome attend that in addition to our consultation.

NB! Please not the visa requirements for Nigeria. Our hosts in Nigeria has offered to help with
a special arrangement to get visa upon arrival. For more information please contact Yunusa

Kind regards,
on behalf of the Convener of the Scholarly Track, Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer,
and the Consultation Planning Team,
Vija Herefoss
Coordinator of the Paper Selection Committee


Call for papers 

International Consultation on Mission and Theology in the Context of Persecution

17 – 18 September 2018, Mackenzie Presbyterian University, Sao Paulo, Brazil 

Exploring responses to religious discrimination and persecution

See further information on the Consultation here:

Christian responses to persecution were the topic of a recent and most extensive research project regarding Freedom of religion or belief and persecution. The research results have been recently released ( an executive summary “In Response to Persecution” ( and a scholarly compendium “Under Ceasar’s Sword: How Christians respond to persecution”, Cambridge Univ. Press.[1]

Furthermore, the State Department of the USA hosted a first ever “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom” in July 2018,[2] with delegations from 80 foreign governments and hundreds of attendees at specific events for NGOs. In addition, there were numerous side events facilitated by members of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable in Washington[3], some of which presented new research.

This body of opinion, documentation and research mainly emanating from the US is worth engaging critically, from an interdisciplinary perspective, and by other research communities. It has the potential to serve as a reference point for a fruitful discussion.

Academics and researchers are invited to submit proposals of papers to the coordinator. The following categories of paper proposals are considered, with the following order of preference:

  1. On responses to religious discrimination and persecution related either to “Under Ceasar’s Sword”, “Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom” or the side events.
  2. On responses to religious discrimination and persecution – independent from above projects and events.
  3. On topics intersecting with “responding to religious discrimination and persecution”
  4. On original research on discrimination or persecution from a theological or missiological perspective (related to postgraduate studies)
  5. On foundational research on discrimination or persecution and surveys in the discipline by senior scholars

The concurrent legal and empirical consultation issues its own call for papers.

For more background on the planned events see:

  • General information on the consultation
  • Draft schedule with joint program

Proposals must be submitted by 31 August 2018 to

Proposals should not exceed one page, and must include working title, abstract, academic position and institution and full contact details, with email, phone and alternative communication channels.

Due to the proximity of the event, suitable proposals will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.


Kind regards,

Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer, Professor for Religious Freedom, ETF Leuven, Belgium / FTH Giessen, Germany

Dr. Wolfgang Häde, Co-Convenor, IAMS Study Group Religious Freedom, Persecution and Mission



[1] — NB: contact us if you are unable to access this book.


[3] – We are in the process of compiling a documentation of all side events as far as possible.



Call for Papers for the Scholarly Track of the Consultation “Christian Women Under Pressure for Their Faith II”, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit Leuven/Belgium, June 1 – 3, 2017. (02/2017).

This second Consultation seeks to build upon the foundation of the Marcham Conference in March 2016 on Women and Persecution. We again hope to draw practitioners and academics together to share learning through both practical reflection and critical thinking within a foundation of prayer. We will examine practices that support persecuted women and look in more depth at the unique and painful issues that women face in hostile and abusive environments where they suffer in identifying with Christ. The presenters for the plenary part of the consultation have been determined already by the consultation organizers. For more details see the consultation invitation.

For the Scholarly Track of the Consultation, up to 8 academic papers related to the topic of the consultation will be considered. They will be spread over four one-hour sessions throughout the consultation.

These papers might be published in post-conference outlets, such as the International Journal for Religious Freedom subject to peer review.

The Scholarly Track is organized conjointly by the International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF), the Initiative for the Study of Freedom of Religion or Belief (ISFORB) at ETF Leuven and the Study Group on Religious Freedom, Persecution and Mission of the International Association for Mission Studies (IAMS).

Presenters at the Scholarly Track are expected to:

  1. a) attend all sessions of the Track and to engage with the other papers,
  2. b) attend the whole consultation, and
  3. c) give their informal input in the plenary sessions and group discussions too,

as this is as a working consultation to explore issues and to bring together expertise of scholars and practitioners.

There are also non-presenting consultation participants expected in the scholarly track.

With around 100 participants expected, there might be between 10 – 30 people in the track.

Timeline 1. Proposals of papers with 250-word abstract are due by 28 February 2017. 2. Applicants will be notified of the acceptance of their papers by 20 March 2017. 3. Consultation registration deadline is 24 March 2017. 4. Draft papers of 2000 words are due by 30 April 2016.

Guidelines for writing paper: 1. Papers presented during the conference are not to exceed 2000 words (without footnotes and references) or 20 minutes to allow 10 minutes to be allocated to questions and answers. 2. If papers are to be published in post-conference outlets (e.g. IJRF) they may be developed depending on the guidelines of the journal/ publisher.

Process governing acceptance of paper 1. All proposals with abstracts will be reviewed by the Selection Committee of the Consultation. 2. Please submit your proposal to the Coordinator of the Selection Committee, Dr. Wolfgang Häde. E-mail:

Papers admittance criteria While writing your paper and before submission, check that you can answer the following questions positively:

  1. Is your paper topic relevant to the topic of the Working Consultation?
  2. In what way does your paper make an original contribution to the topic?
  3. Does your paper show the following features: • Clarity and logic of argument; • Originality and concreteness of content; • Level of engagement with relevant scholarship; • Accuracy of form, expression, and language inclusiveness.
  4. Is your paper abstract less than 250 words, and your draft paper for presentation less than 2000 words?

Please do not forget to also REGISTER for the Consultation:

Registrations are to be sent to the Consultation Facilitator  before 24 March 2017.

See further information on the Consultation here: CWuPftF Consultation – General Invitation

Kind regards, on behalf of the Convenor of the Scholarly Track, Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer, and the Consultation Planning Team,

Dr. Wolfgang Häde, Coordinator of the Paper Selection Committee


Worldwide Increase of Conversions and of Violations of Human Rights (09/2016)

Study Group “Religious Freedom, Persecution and Mission” at Assembly of IAMS in Seoul

Today there is a worldwide increase of conversions to other religions, especially from Islam to Christian faith. Some of the reasons for this trend are growing mobility, easier access to media, the revolutionary growth of global communication and a disillusionment with certain aspects of existing religions. One result of this development is a parallel increase in violations of religious freedom.

These were some of the conclusions of the Study Group “Religious Freedom, Persecution and Mission” during the 14th Assembly of the “International Association for Mission Studies” (IAMS). The quadrennial assembly of the association from 11-17 August in the South Korean capital Seoul brought together about 130 mission scholars from all continents. In plenary sessions and in eight different study groups the participants shared research connected with the topic “Conversions and Transformations: Missiological Approaches to Religious Change”.

The Convenor of the Study Group “Religious Freedom, Persecution and Mission” is Prof. Christof Sauer, one of the directors of the “International Institute for Religious Freedom” (IIRF), co-convenor is Wolfgang Häde. Sauer presented a paper about recently published compendiums on the topic of “Mission and Persecution”. Häde spoke about strengthening the identity of converts from Islam. Eshete Tibebe´s paper described the “Ethiopian Pentecostals and their persecution experience”, Jayakumar Ramachandran analyzed conversion from the perspective of Christian mission in India and Nepal. Other presentations in the framework of the study group came from Brazil, Egypt, Korea and Central Asia.

During the final plenum session at the assembly Prof. Sauer summarized the results of the Study Group sessions by presenting some trends and prospects:

Emerging trends and future prospects” in the field of religious freedom, persecution and mission

(a) Trends/prospects related to the theme of transformations and conversions

  1. Increase: There is a noted increase in people changing their religious convictions – particularly away from Islam – and publicly expressing it.
  2. Factors: This seems to be facilitated by increases in mobility, international exchange and easier access to media and communication globally, as well as by disillusion about certain expressions of inherited beliefs.
  3. Women: Women are particularly vulnerable. On the one hand they might face repressions by their families when they convert. On the other hand Christian girls are found to be targeted for forced conversion by some majority communities.
  4. Church: The response of the Christian churches to new converts from other beliefs is often inappropriate, at times marked by ignorance, embarrassment, indifference or neglect and at others by overenthusiasm, idolization, overexposure, and un-reflected jeopardization. Acknowledgement and welcoming of converts as members of the body of Christ and sensitivity to their particular vulnerability and needs is called for.
  5. Discipleship: The relationship between conversion and (the costs of) discipleship needs more attention by churches and missiologists.

(b) Trends/prospects in the field of religious freedom, persecution and mission

  1. Religion: Religion plays an important role in infringements of human rights. Infringements of religious freedom cannot be reduced to political, social, economical or other purely immanent reasons only. There are forms of persecution with religious connotations and others for specifically religious reasons, than can be understood no other way.
  2. Missiology: Missiologists realize that they can play an important role in researching these. Members of the study group both recognized the value of human rights language as well as the need for a complementary interpretation in theological and missiological terms. They also recognized many similarities and common challenges in various contexts while remaining alert to the need to avoid generalizations.
  3. Anti-conversion attitudes: There is a trend to outlaw change of religious conviction (conversion) by worldviews and ideologies that seek to create or maintain hegemony.

There is a complementary trend from pluralist and secularist positions that consider conversion unnecessary or irrelevant, and therefore fail to protect this as an aspect of freedom of religion or belief as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 (c) Regional trends/prospects:

  1. Islamic world: The increasing trend to seek to change one´s religion can be particularly observed in some areas of Muslim hegemony or dominance or among people leaving such areas.
  2. Hindu world: A curbed trend away from Hinduism can also be observed, particularly in the lowest social spheres.
  3. Latin America: In some Latin American countries there is increasing physical violence against Christians with governments failing to protect their citizens and/or a deconstruction of Christian values and restrictions on religious freedom, which have not all been on the radar of human rights advocates.


New IAMS study group: “Religious freedom and persecution” (12/2012)

Christof Sauer, Convenor of the Study Group

Christof Sauer, Convenor of the Study Group

Nine IAMS members agreed to form an ongoing IAMS Study Group on the topic of “Religious freedom and persecution” during a lunchtime meeting on  Saturday 18 August 2012 at the  IAMS Conference in Toronto.

The rationale for the study group is that much of religious persecution occurs in various different relationships to Christian mission, evangelism, witness, conversion, etc. In addition a rather large proportion of studies pertaining to religious persecution are undertaken within the discipline of missiology.

The participants elected Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer (Director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom, Cape Town Bureau, South Africa) as the convenor and doctoral candidate Wolfgang Haede (Turkey) as co-convenor.

The participants agreed to the following steps:

  • The convenors establish an electronic forum for email exchange and document repository and will register the names of the initial participants.
  • The participants ask the IAMS-Executive to give their blessing to this new group and to advertise it through IAMS channels.
  • The participants will receive a document that will enable them to invite other interested parties.

Four more members joined the group after the initial meeting. IAMS members and any other interested parties are welcome to register.



“Freedom of Belief & Christian Mission” is published (08/2015)

New Volume in Edinburgh SeriesED-Reflecting-front_thm

Hans Aage Gravaas, Christof Sauer, Tormod Engelsviken, Maqsood Kamil and Knud Jørgensen (eds), Freedom of Belief and Christian Mission, Regnum Edinburgh Centenary Series 26. Oxford 2015 (Regnum Books), 494 p.

Online orders are possible under

Volume 26 of the Regnum Edinburgh Centenary Series titled “Freedom of Belief & Christian Mission” is available. Five member of the IAMS Study Group “Religious Freedom and Persecution” contributed to the publication.

The “Edinburgh 2010” Conference marked the centenary of the legendary World Missionary Conference, Edinburg 1910. An important part of the Edinburgh 2010 study process is the “Regnum Edinburgh Centenary Series” published under the label of “Regnum Books International” by the “Oxford Centre for Mission Studies” which aspires to unite researchers from a diverse denominational background to reflect on Christian mission. Some of the volumes of the series present the official outcome of the Edinburgh Conference while others contain the results of various study groups.

Volume 26 “Freedom of Belief and Christian Mission” covers a large variety of aspects of worldwide pressure on Christians. On almost 500 pages first a theoretical framework is given. Some chapters deal with historical and theological aspects. Case studies are among others from Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia, China, Burma, Indonesia and Brazil. A few “Missiological Responses” complete the volume.

Our IAMS Study Group “Religious Freedom and Persecution” has strongly contributed to the new book: Prof. Christof Sauer, convenor of the Study Group has edited the book together with Hans Aage Gravaas, Tormod Engelsviken, Maqsood Kamil and Knud Jørgensen. Prof. Sauer contributed the chapters “A Doxological Framework for Interpreting Discrimination, Persecution and Martyrdom” (together with Dwi Maria Handayani) and “Christian Solidarity in the Face of Discrimination and Persecution”. Wolfgang Häde, co-convenor of the group, wrote about “Christians in Turkey as Part of a Western Conspiracy? A Turkish Perspective on Christian Missionaries”. Valentin Kozhuharow is the author of “Freedom of Religion and Christian Mission in Russia before and after the Era of the Soviet Union”. Hanna Josua’s contribution is titled “The Middle East: A Future Region without Christians?” One of the missiological responses is written by Prof Jan A.B. Jongeneel: “Do Christian Witness and Mission Provoke Persecution?”


Book project: Freedom of Belief and Christian Mission (04/2014)

The Regnum Edinburgh 2010 Series is planning a volume on “Freedom of Belief and Christian Mission”. The IAMS Study Group on Religious Freedom and Persecution is involved. The convenor, Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer has been co-opted as one of the editors. Several members of the study group are assisting with advice on the outline of the volume and are volunteering as authors.

Twenty other volumes have so far been published in this project that could become the major series on mission in our century (

Christian mission takes place in a world where there are increasing interreligious tensions, including violence and persecution. Politics, economics, religion, ethnicity and other factors play a role in these tensions. Christians too are involved in such conflicts, sometimes as those who are persecuted and sometimes as those participating in violence.

The purpose of a volume on Freedom of Belief and Christian Mission is to bring to public attention a broad overview on the history, development and perspectives on the role of mission and freedom of belief and to reflect on these issues within a context of authentic witness in mission. There is, as far as we know, no other conceptual treatment of this issue from such a broad ecumenical perspective.

The editors are Hans Aage Gravaas, Stefanus Alliance International, Tormod Engelsviken, MF Norwegian School of Theology, Christof Sauer, IIRF – International Institute for Religious Freedom, South Africa, and Knud Jørgensen, Regnum Edinburgh Centenary Series/MF Norwegian School of Theology.

Interested IAMS members may inquire for details with:


International Consultation on Religious Freedom Research (03/2013)

The new Study Group „Religious Freedom and Persecution“ had its first regular meeting in the framework of the International Consultation on Religious Freedom Research, Istanbul, Turkey, 16-18 March 2013. The consultation was organized by the “International Institute of Religious Freedom” (Bonn, Cape Town, and Colombo) and the Research Group for Human Geography at the University of Tubingen, Germany.

This Consultation was the first of its kind and brought together activists and academics in theology, laws, geography who presented research about Religious Freedom. Istanbul as the city on two continents and often seen as a bridge between East and West was a great location for a consultation on a worldwide issue. Participants came from all continents. Thirty-three papers were presented in plenary sessions or in one of the two working groups.

Todd Johnson from the Institute of Culture, Religion & World Affairs at the Boston University spoke about the effects of “global trends of religious demography on religious freedom”. Rod Boyd-MacMillan and Frans Veerman, researchers for Open Doors International, presented „First experiences with the new World Watch List methodology.“ Christof Sauer from IIRF, the convenor of our study group gave „A critical analysis of the new questionnaire for the World Watch List.“

International Consultation in Istanbul

International Consultation in Istanbul

In the Working Group 2 with a special focus on theological and missiological implications of religious freedom among others Wolfgang Haede, co-convenor of the IAMS Group presented his research about „Perceptions of Christians in Turkey“ as evaluated in Turkish newspapers. Doctoral candidate Daniel Roethlisberger spoke about his exegetical-theological study on „Contents and limits of assistance and self-help for persecuted Christians“. Nigerian scholar Yusuf Turaki offered his insights into „The Systematic Persecution, Marginalization, Discrimination of Christians of Northern Origin in the Northern States of Nigeria“.

Many participants expressed their appreciation of the interdisciplinary exchange of results on research about religious freedom and pleaded for a continuation of this kind of format.

See a detailed report on the Consultation under this link:


Religious freedom study group’s Convener:
Robert Lilleaasen
Email: RLilleaasen[@]

Vija Herefoss