Earlier this week the State Department joined with government officials, religious leaders and human rights advocates for the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The three-day event was convened to discuss challenges and identify concrete means to “push back against persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.”
The conference included 350 participants from 80 countries and represented a variety of religious believers, including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Baha’is, and Yazidis.
“We were as inclusive as possible because we wanted to include everyone of every faith or no faith at all, everyone who cares about religious freedom and who will join us in this cause,” said Sam Brownback, the former Kansas governor and senator who now serves as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. “Religious freedom really, truly is for everyone. It’s a right given by God and it’s a beautiful part of our human dignity.”
During his speech on Thursday morning Vice President Mike Pence explained the importance of promoting religious freedom around the world.
“The right to believe or not believe is the most fundamental of freedoms,” said Pence. “When religious liberty is denied or destroyed, we know that other freedoms — freedom of speech, of press, assembly, and even democratic institutions themselves — are imperiled.”
“That’s why the United States of America stands for religious freedom yesterday, today, and always,” added the vice president. “We do this because it is right. But we also do this because religious freedom is in the interest of the peace and security of the world.”
In conjunction with the Ministerial, ERLC co-hosted Lessons from Southeast Asia: State and Non-State Threats, an event at the U.S. Capitol that focused on international religious freedom in Southeast Asia. ERLC joined with Freedom Institute and Boat People SOS to feature conversations on the role of religious registration systems in restricting religious freedom and on the rising threat of non-state actors in Southeast Asia. The event also included the premiere of a short film produced by ERLC, Malaysia: A Fight for Freedom and Identity.
“This week is a call to persons of peace to join together to advance religious freedom for all,” said Travis Wussow, ERLC Vice President of Public Policy and General Counsel. “As Christians, we believe religious liberty flows from God’s design for government to honor that the Lord alone is Lord of the conscience. We are encouraged how the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom evidenced the work of Ambassador Brownback and his team of dedicated public servants to raise the profile of religious freedom as a foreign policy priority of the United States, and we look forward to continuing that conversation.”