(Reuters) – A
coalition of major Christian churches including the Vatican launched a
rule book on Tuesday for spreading their faith that aims to reduce
hostility from Islam and other religions to efforts to convert their
The five-page code of conduct, which has been
under negotiation since 2005, was unveiled at a Geneva news conference
by the World Council of Churches (WCC), a senior Roman Catholic prelate
and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).
urges Christians wanting “to share the good news of God’s kingdom” —
missionary work or simply publicly testifying to their faith — “to
build relations of respect and trust with all religions” and adapt their
approaches to local conditions.
It reaffirms their right to proselytize, or promote their beliefs and seek converts.
it also urges them to abandon “inappropriate methods of exercising
mission by resorting to deception and coercive means,” saying that such
behavior “betray the gospel and may cause suffering to others.”
code, entitled “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World:
Recommendations for Conduct,” comes amid growing tension between small
local Christian communities and majorities from other religions in many,
especially Muslim, countries.
is often sparked by the activity of missionaries, both overt and
covert, who seek to convert non-Christians, and are often denounced by
local religious leaders — Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist — as enemies of
what they see as the true faith.
some Islamic countries, a Muslim who converts to another faith can face
the death penalty, and Christians who proclaim their religion are often
accused of blasphemy, which can also be a capital offence.
recent years, there have been increasing incidents of attacks on
Christian churches seen as the focus for conversion activity — in
Pakistan, Egypt, India, Indonesia and others — in which many Christian believers have died.
new code — initially promoted by the Geneva-based WCC, which unites a
wide range of Protestant and Orthodox churches — says conversion “is
the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Christians should “conduct themselves with integrity, charity,
compassion and humility, and overcome all arrogance, condescension and
disparagement” with regard other religions.
it declared that religious freedom — which many activists argue does
not exist in Muslim countries — and the “right to publicly profess,
practice, propagate and change one’s religion” are based in human
And it calls on
governments “to ensure that freedom of religion is properly and
comprehensively respected, recognizing that in many countries religious
institutions and persons are inhibited from exercising their mission.”