Next week more than 40 foreign ministers, as well as religious and civil society leaders from around the world, will gather in Washington, D.C., to discuss religious liberty at the invitation of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom is a first for the State Department and Pompeo’s first major ministerial event.
In a Salem Media radio interview with Hugh Hewitt this week, Pompeo called the summit “historic,” and said, “We believe religious freedom is central to the world, and to, frankly, America’s place in the world.”
Pompeo is hoping to move the needle in favor of religious freedom in countries around the world by helping them to understand how it “fits into a democratic society, how it makes sense for each country, how it can improve economies.” Indicating there will be new initiatives announced next week, the Secretary also told Hewitt, “We believe that improving respect for religious freedom requires more than just talk, and so we’re bringing people together.”
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, a key catalyst in the development of the ministerial, has also focused on the importance of concrete action advancing religious freedom. At the May release of the State Department’s annual report on the matter, he declared, “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.”
Noting Open Doors USA statistics that 1 in 12 Christians globally – 215 million Christians – face serious persecution, NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson commended Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Brownback and welcomed the summit. He said, “There is real violence and abuse being perpetrated against Christians and other religious minorities around the world. This must stop. We need action.”
Johnson added, “I thank the Trump administration for sending a strong message to the world that America means what our founding documents declare. Liberty is not an afterthought. Liberty is fundamental for a truly healthy society.”
More information about next week’s summit is here, and details about a host of related side events happening around Washington, D.C., is available on the site of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, an NGO coalition. The State Department is also encouraging social media engagement with the hashtag #IRFMinisterial.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: July 20, 2018