26th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium

Human Dignity and Religious Freedom: Preventing and Responding to Persecution

The 2019 Annual International Law and Religion Symposium focuses a light on persecution, with a particular emphasis on how implementing the concepts of human dignity and religious freedom can help prevent and respond to persecution worldwide.

Nearly 75 years after the end of World War II, and 70 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in many parts of the world there are severe instances of religious persecution – not just discrimination, marginalization or hostility, but mass atrocities, including murder, torture, bodily harm, rape and sexual violence, slavery and forced labor, forced displacement, forced conversion, and atrocities that may be classified as crimes against humanity, war crimes or even genocide. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights collectively resolved “never again” in response to the horrors of the Holocaust, but we find ourselves once again facing serious cases of religious persecution that cannot be neglected. This in spite of the fact that communication is better than it has ever been, with ease of transportation better than it has ever been, diaspora able to communicate easily with local communities, social media that has democratized the ability to shine a spotlight on problems – factors that it seems should mitigate persecution.

And yet, we see examples of persecution in various places in the world: Amadis in Pakistan; Yazidis in Iraq; Rohingyas in Myanmar; Baha’is in Iran and Yemen; Christians in many parts of the Middle East; Uighurs and Tibetan Buddhists (among others) in China; Christians and Muslims in India; and resurgent anti-Semitism in France and other parts of Europe – to name a few.

This Conference aims to achieve a better understanding of the dynamics of persecution, and what various national and global players can do to better prevent and respond to persecution. Lord Alton of Liverpool and Bishop Efraim Tendero, incoming co-president of Religions for Peace and Secretary-General/CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance, will provide keynote addresses. Other major sessions will look at the dynamics of religious persecution and what role various actors, such as judges, religious organizations, the media, human rights advocates, and government leaders can play in redressing existing persecution and preventing additional persecution.

The  26th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium will be held in Provo, Utah on 6-8 October 2019. Attendance and participation are by invitation only. Contact the Center for more information.

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Bishop Efraim Tendero, and Fernand de Varennes to provide keynote addresses at 26th Annual Symposium


The 26th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium will feature three keynote speakers. Lord Alton of Liverpool and Bishop Efraim Tendero will open the conference at the BYU Law School on Sunday, October 6, 2019, and Fernand de Varennes will speak on Monday, October 7.

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer. He began his career as a teacher and, in 1972, while still a student, he was elected to Liverpool City Council as Britain’s youngest City Councillor. In 1979 he became the youngest member of the House of Commons and, in 1997, and when he stood down from the Commons, he was appointed a Life Peer. His motto on his Coat of Arms is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy: Choose Life. In 1990, with Ken Hargreaves MP, he co-founded the nonpartisan Movement for Christian Democracy which emerged from the Epiphany Group which he had convened the previous year. It published its Westminster Declaration based on six principles: social justice, respect for life, active compassion, empowerment and good stewardship. He was one of the six MPs who first called for the televised broadcasting of Parliament; one of the officers of the parliamentary committee that opposed anti-personnel land mines; one of the six signatories of the Motion that challenged the safety of the convictions of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four; and one of the four Peers who moved the “Dubs amendment” to provide sanctuary in the UK for unaccompanied refugee children.

Lord Alton is Founder and co-chairman of the British-DPRK All-Party Parliamentary Group. He details his experiences in his book, written with Rob Chidley,”Bulding Bridges: Is there Hope For North Korea?” (Lion 2013) one of eleven books he has authored.

In Parliament, he is co-Chairman of the All Party Groups on North Korea and Pakistan Minorities.

He is Secretary and a past Chairman of the All Party Group on Sudan and South Sudan, visited the South during the civil war and visited Darfur. He has regularly highlighted the atrocities committed there, including a 2016 letter to The Times about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Darfur.

He serves as Vice Chairman of the All Party Groups on Egypt, Tibet, Eritrea, Haiti, and Uganda and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy in Burma; and is Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hormone Pregnancy Tests which was established to investigate and highlight the use of the drug ‘Primodos’. He was a Founder of the All Party Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief. He is a Patron of the London-based rights group Save the Congo!

Bishop Efraim Tendero, widely known as Bishop Ef, was appointed Secretary General and CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) on March 1, 2015. He has previously served as National Director of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) for more than 20 years. PCEC is WEA’s national Alliance member that represents some 30,000 evangelical churches in the Philippines. He was also President of the Philippine Relief and Development Services (PHILRADS), the relief and development arm of PCEC that works hand in hand with local churches in holistic ministries to serve the poor and needy.

Bishop Tendero also served as International Facilitator for South East Asia of the Asia Evangelical Alliance, was appointed Lausanne Senior Associate for Integrity and Anti-Corruption and was the chair of the board Back to the Bible Broadcast, Evangelism Explosion (EE) 3 Philippines, Global Filipino Movement, and the Philippine Missions Association. He also served the Executive Editor of Evangelicals Today, the longest running Christian magazine in the Philippines.

Bishop Tendero has a BA in Theology from Febias College of Bible and a Master of Divinity with focus on pastoral counseling from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He received two honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from Asian Theological Seminary and Febias College of Bible, and a Doctor of Leadership degree from International Graduate School of Leadership. Bishop Tendero and his wife Sierry have four children and two grandchildren.

Fernand de Varennes is Extraordinary Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Pretoria (South Africa), Adjunct Professor at the National University of Ireland-Galway (Ireland), and Cheng Yu Tung Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong (China). He was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues by the Human Rights Council and assumed his functions on 1 August 2017.

Fernand de Varennes’ work and commitment focuses on the human rights of minorities, as well as the prevention of ethnic conflicts, the rights of migrants, the relationship between ethnicity, human rights and democracies, and the use of federalism and other forms of autonomy arrangements to balance competing cultural interests. His contributions on these topics in many parts of the world, including as a professor for almost 20 years at Murdoch University in Australia, and as a guest professor at several institutions in Africa, Asia and Europe. He has written reports for and spoken in numerous forums on these issues including before UN committees in Geneva, the European Parliament in Brussels, and with the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. Fernand de Varennes holds degrees from the Université de Moncton (LLB), the London School of Economics and Political Science (LLM), and the Rijksuniversiteit Limburg (now the University of Maastricht, Dr Juris).