Why LYNC Develops Positive Indexes to Assess Religious Freedom 


Posted By
Dr. Maksym Vasin, J.D., Senior Researcher at LYN Community 
Posted On

Countries with transitional or authoritarian regimes adopt different approaches to protect and promote religious freedom. These approaches differ depending on the ultimate goals and the ability to achieve long-term outcomes.

The most common activity is “name and shame” campaigns to advocate for change by emphasizing the violation of the rights of specific victims or faith-based communities. A variation of this approach involves reports from international and human rights organizations that highlight restrictions or persecution based on religion in various countries. This approach can yield short-term results when governments respond to the outcry over individual violations. Instead, the most lasting and systemic changes in state religious policy come from initiatives aimed at building religious freedom and affirming covenantal pluralism in societies with weak democratic institutions. 

Over the past ten years, the Love Your Neighbor Community (LYNC) has eschewed the common “name and shame” response and chose to facilitate building religious freedom in Central Asia instead. In Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, LYNC has begun bringing governmental, religious, academic, and civil society leaders together to establish dialogue and long-term trusting relationships, eliminating mutual bias and stereotypes between representatives of different religions and beliefs. 

This goal is achieved through regular meetings, trainings for trainers, and roundtable discussions on a shared vision of the role of faith-based communities in raising good citizens, uniting society, and shaping national identity based on pluralism and inclusion. LYNC’s efforts to increase cross-cultural religious literacy are part of this process, which helps to overcome the vicious legacy of Soviet anti-religious policy and move from religious hatred to building multi-faith partnerships.

However, how can we assess the progress of different countries on the path to religious freedom? How can we encourage governments to take action to change religious policy from discrimination to impartiality, from suppression to unconstraint, and from persecution to protection? 

For these purposes, in 2023, LYNC launched research to develop positive indexes and metrics for measuring religious freedom. First, we seek to capture a complete picture of the religious situation in a country that reflects positive trends in government religious policy and social change achieved through implementing a long-term strategy of change. LYNC’s assessment from a positive perspective will not replace, but will be a significant addition to, the annual reports on violations prepared by USCIRF and human rights organizations and the academically impartial survey by the Pew Research Center on government restrictions and social hostilities. 

Second, LYNC’s positive indexes are intended to become a crucial advocacy tool for the gradual improvement of state religious policy in countries on the path to democracy and even in authoritarian and non-free countries. We aim to publish our codebook online, which will present all the positive indicators. This will serve as an action plan for governments, motivating them to perfect their religious legislation and its implementation and to understand the necessary steps to achieve international standards on freedom of religion or belief.

Similar to the REDI Index introduced by Dr. Brian J. Grim and his Religious Freedom & Business Foundation for awarding faith-and-belief-friendly workplaces, LYNC’s positive indexes will foster constructive competition among countries worldwide to improve their religious freedom environment and achieve covenantal pluralism. 

When choosing Kazakhstan as a pilot region, LYNC considers both the cultural characteristics and the geopolitical context of post-Soviet countries. Nevertheless, the positive indexes will benefit not only Central Asia. Using international standards as a baseline allows us to extend the implementation of our positive indexes worldwide. 

We believe the LYNC approach can be a key initiative to facilitate the building of religious freedom internationally by encouraging governments to enhance their rank in the positive indexes by rising to the next level year by year. 


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