Erin Rodewald || February 5, 2019
The first fruits from last summer’s inaugural Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom have begun to ripen. At the close of the Ministerial, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo challenged participants to endorse the Potomac Declaration and join in the Potomac Plan of Action. The pair established a framework from which the international community could draw inspiration and a tangible blueprint to promote religious freedom and respond to persecution based on religion, belief, or non-belief.
Among the actions recommended was the creation of forums whereby religious groups, faith-based organizations, and civil society could meet to discuss strategies and solutions in support of religious freedom. In the U.S. that work began long before the Ministerial under the banner of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable. Today, individuals from more than 250 multilateral organizations — from NGOs and congressional offices to religious groups and human rights advocates — participate in the IRF Roundtable. Twice monthly they meet to share ideas and information and propose joint advocacy and initiatives that are helping drive policy in support of freedom of religion, conscience and belief.
In response to the challenge put forth at the Ministerial, and with the IRF Roundtable as a guide, similar groups are forming in nations like Taiwan, South Korea, and the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Just last month, nearly 40 leaders from diverse tribes, faiths, ethnicities and geographic backgrounds convened the International Religious Freedom Roundtable in Nigeria (IRFRN) — the first local roundtable outside the U.S. In a nation where ethnicity and religion are deeply connected and often intensely polarizing, the Nigeria Roundtable has provided a healthy forum where disparate groups are setting aside differences and working side by side. Continue reading