The Ministerial has been an important occasion to showcase the many global efforts underway to promote and protect religious freedom. Here in the U.S., the IRFRoundtable, USCIRF and the IRF Office at the State Department regularly drive and influence policy decisions to strengthen religious freedom as a component of US foreign policy. Abroad, other governments and coalitions also are working, independently and in partnership, to better understand the threats to religious freedom.
Civil society organizations are deeply committed to religious freedom and lifting up human dignity. Many were represented this week, but a few notables are mentioned here. Click through to learn more:
- Nehemiah Global Initiative — founded by missionary Kenneth Bae to protect vulnerable refugees, particularly those coming out of North Korea
- Search for Common Ground — working to end violent conflict around the world
- Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum — works to alert the national conscience, influence policy makers, and stimulate worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity
The State Department issued a number of Statements of Concern at the close of the Ministerial. Participating countries were given the opportunity to join these Statements in a show of solidarity for shared religious freedom concerns. Statement topics included: the respect for religion, counterterrorism, Burma/Myanmar, non-state actors, China, protection of places of worship, blasphemy, technology and religious freedom, and Iran. Click through to read each Statement.
Another important outcome of the Ministerial is the creation of an International Religious Freedom Fund to provide rapid assistance to victims of persecution around the world.
Likewise, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo introduced a new initiative in support of civil society efforts to uphold religious freedom. “Governments alone can’t properly tackle this problem,” he said, in remarks to a Ministerial audience. “To that end. . .we will create the International Religious Freedom Alliance. We hope that this new vehicle will build on efforts to date and bring like-minded countries together to confront challenges of international religious freedom.”
By many accounts, the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom was a success. However, that success is tempered by reports that the Trump administration is considering a virtual shutdown of refugee admissions next year. Such a policy decision would be incongruous with the administration’s week-long and carefully crafted elevation of religious freedom.
Read my earlier posts from the IRF Ministerial here: