U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo opened a major door for the advance of religious freedom this week. Not only did he announce the release of the State Department’s newest report on the status of religious liberty around the world, but Pompeo also declared that this summer he will host the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom – a gathering of foreign ministers from around the world, along with other international civil society and religious leaders.
“This ministerial, we expect, will break new ground,” Pompeo said. “It will not just be a discussion group. It will be about action. We look forward to identifying concrete ways to push back against persecution and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.”
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback was by Pompeo’s side for this announcement. Brownback declared, “We all have a stake in this fight. One person’s bondage is another person’s burden to break. We’re all people with beautiful and undeniable human dignity. Our lives are sacred. Our right to choose the road our conscience takes is inalienable.”
Brownback called the new report “critical,” but added his focus was on actual action to advance religious liberty. Reiterating a point raised by Pompeo about the importance of freedom for America’s interest in global stability, Brownback said, “Two key objectives of the Trump administration are reduction of terrorism and growing the economy. With religious freedom, you get both of them. It is also a fundamental human right under assault in much of the world.”
NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson welcomed this news. Noting the significance of this high-level gathering during the 20th anniversary year of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, Johnson said, “I wholeheartedly applaud Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Brownback for their commitment to America’s first freedom. They are letting the world know that America means what our founding documents declare. We love liberty. We need liberty. All the nations of the world do.”
For his part, Pompeo left no question about where he stood. While announcing the State Department’s assessment of religious liberty in nearly 200 countries and territories, he stated, “International religious freedom deserves to be a front-burner issue, and Ambassador Brownback and I, with him leading the way, will ensure that it continues to be so.”
The full State Department report is here.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: June 1, 2018