- Over 1000 participants and 100 foreign delegations discuss advancement of freedom of religion and belief at US Ministerial
- Religious freedom severely threatened globally
WASHINGTON DC (19 July 2019) – This week, the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom took place in Washington DC from 16-18 July. The Ministerial was hosted by the Office of International Religious Freedom of the US Department of State and focused on the challenges facing international religious freedom, stories told by the victims of persecution, and potential solutions for protecting this fundamental right. ADF International participated in a panel discussion on Best Practices in International Religious Freedom Advocacy, and also co-sponsored three side events to the Ministerial that focused on the religious freedom situations in India, Vietnam, and other South and Southeast Asian countries.
“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. By bringing together international decision makers and advocates, we were able to take an important step for the advancement of global freedom of religion and belief. National governments and international organizations must protect those who are exposed to violence and persecution because of what they believe. Events like this help raise awareness and develop effective policy promoting this fundamental right,” said Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom for ADF International, who spoke during the Ministerial.
National governments and international organizations must protect those who are exposed to violence and persecution because of what they believe. Events like this help raise awareness and develop effective policy promoting this fundamental right.
New goals for international religious freedom
Advocates and government officials discussed over the three days of the Ministerial goals to better protect religious minorities and those persecuted for their religion, identifying global challenges for religious freedom, and sharing commitments and trends on advancing religious freedom.
Zorzi said, “Before we can find solutions on how to best protect international religious freedom we need to define the problems. Alliances and platforms such as the International Religious Freedom Roundtable are hugely valuable in discussing and developing these solutions. Civil society has much to offer policymakers on religious freedom, but must go beyond merely asking for action. We need to create the actual solutions we want to see, and build alliances to grow our reach.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave opening remarks: “[W]e all agree that fighting so that each person is free to believe, free to assemble, and to teach the tenets of his or her own faith is not optional – indeed, it is a moral imperative that this be permitted.”
US Vice President Mike Pence described the event as “largest human rights ministerial ever held at the United States State Department.”
The US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback called for the Ministerial to be a “turning-point”: “Let this be the beginning of a global grassroots movement for religious freedom.”
Victims of persecution speak out
The Ministerial also featured the voices of many of those who had persecuted merely because of their faith or beliefs. Survivors of the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand, the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the bombings during Easter services in Sri Lanka all gave testimonies.
Timothy Shah, Director of the South and Southeast Asia Action Team for the Religious Freedom Institute said, “Ethno-religious nationalism in Southeast Asia affects a quarter of the world’s population,” at a side-event on the challenges of extremism in South and Southeast Asia. The side event was co-sponsored by ADF International.
Tehmina Arora, Director of ADF India said, “The problem that we see in many South Asian countries is that there is ‘freedom’ but no opportunity to exercise it as it is made almost impossible to convert to another religion.”