WASHINGTON, DC – Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom open the first meeting of a three-day Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom conference in Washington DC sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
In his opening speech on 24 July, he said, ‘ The lack of religious freedom anywhere is a threat everywhere.” His statements at the conference built upon his public conviction that “religious freedom is the most important foreign relations topic today,” that he shared with the Alliance of Virtue for the Common Good conference in February 2018,
More than 350 faith leaders from more than 60 countries signed a declaration at the February conference that concluded with a statement that “Affirm[s] that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.”
The July conference was also attended by about 350 faith leaders from 80 countries around the globe. By Brownback’s account, there were Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Bahai, Yazidi, and other faiths represented so that the movement he is spearheading will be as inclusive as possible in supporting the cause of religious freedom.
The purpose of the gathering was to begin to put some effort behind the elocution by beginning to “identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all” and ensure the right of individuals to live according to the dictates of their own soul. He proposed that that right is currently under attack around the entire world.
He emphasized the need for faith in action that goes beyond tolerance. “We must move to a place where people genuinely care and love one another, no matter our differences.”
Other speakers at the conference included actual victims of religious persecution, including the wife of Rev. John Cao who is currently imprisoned in China on false charges.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council lauded the Trump administration’s campaign of actively promoting religious freedom. He said, “After the eight years of the Obama administration, we’re more appreciative than ever for President Trump’s emphasis on religious liberty. With all of the issues [competing] for the world’s attention, Americans are grateful the White House isn’t overlooking one of the most important.”
Thomas Farr, president of the Religious Freedom Institute observed that “This gathering represents a historic opportunity for the United States. The time is now for our nation to lead a global effort in advancing this fundamental right, without which no human being, and no society, can flourish.”
The time for effective action is now. The Pew Research report on religious persecution and restrictions around the globe released in June 2018 indicated that 28% of the 198 countries included in the research had a rating of either high or very high government restrictions and actual attacks against religious minorities.
- The Washington Post, Religious Freedom forum draws attention to persecution, false imprisonment and re-education camps
- Topix, Religious freedom is under attack, Sam Brownback says at forum
- Religion News Service, Brownback opens religious freedom summit with plea to fight persecution
- World Watch Monitor, ‘Lack of religious freedom anywhere is a threat everywhere,’ Sam Brownback tells religious freedom summit
- By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Sam Brownback) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons