Preparing to Protect Religious Freedom at UEFA Euro 2008


At the International Human Rights Group ( we are preparing to protect religious freedom at the UEFA Euro 2008, the European Cup Soccer Championships.  You might not be aware that thousands of missionaries from a variety of mission organizations and churches will be at this major sporting event.  They will not be there to attend soccer or football matches; they will be there to share their faith with the hundreds of thousands of people who will come from around the world to enjoy one of the largest parties in Europe this year.


These major sporting events are great outreach opportunities.  The people who are gathered are relaxed.  They are not rushing to work or taking care of urgent business.  They are gathered in large crowds and small gatherings to take in the festivities that surround such sporting events. 


We have been actively working to protect religious freedom at these events since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.  Our job is simple.  We begin by making sure the organizers of the event understand the legal right that our clients have to share their faith in public places.  We do this by sending a comprehensive letter detailing the legal protection of Christians in the public areas in the cities where these events are held.  When necessary, we go beyond merely sending a legal letter and meet with key leaders in the government or the organizing committee to better explain the rights involved.


The second phase of our work is to monitor events on the ground at these events, we will be doing this in Switzerland and Austria in June and then in Beijing in August.  This means that we are in the key locations of the event making sure that large outreaches and individual evangelism are permitted as required by local and international law.  We travel with some of the missionaries and observe their activities, working with local police officers when it is appropriate.


This allows the missionaries to concentrate on their outreach without fear.  We become their advocate before local authorities.


Additionally, we will be meeting with various mission teams and helping them understand how to approach officials who are trying to stop their message from getting out.  This education process is personal and has proven very effective at past events such as the Athens Olympics in 2004.  Because we were in Athens missionaries who were threatened with arrest were permitted to continue their outreach without being arrested and without further threats of arrest.


Our intention is to provide the same level of commitment and service to those who are working in Europe to share their faith and convert others to Christianity.


We work to keep the door open for the proclamation of the Gospel at a time when literally hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have the chance to hear the Gospel, many of them for the first time.


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C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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