The first ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom – July 24-26, Washington DC
US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo hosted the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, the first-ever Ministerial to advance religious freedom around the world. This event focused on concrete outcomes that reaffirm international commitments to promote religious freedom and produce real, positive change.
The Ministerial convened a broad range of stakeholders, including foreign ministers – Hungary’s Péter Szíjjártó among them -, international organization representatives, religious leaders, and civil society representatives. They discussed challenges, tried to identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.
The organizers were joined by more “than 80 foreign delegations and religious leaders from all across the world who work closely with civil society groups, who are often on the frontlines of reporting and responding to cases of religious intolerance and persecution”, told the Secretary of State in his closing remarks.
“There were also survivors of religious persecution among the participants sharing their stories” – he added.
Secretary of State Pompeo – referring to Vice President Pence’s remarks – also mentioned that “in the coming months the United States Government will launch a Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response initiative. This is a diplomatic and assistance effort specifically focused on ensuring communities of faith and local organizations are part of the solution in recovering from atrocities.”
Finally he announced five new initiatives of the State Department:
- The International Religious Freedom Fund is a joint fund with other nations that will support the work of religious freedom defenders and assist victims of religious persecution.
- The State Department created a new International Visitor Leadership Program to bring those working on the frontlines of religious freedom issues together, all different faiths from all around the world, to come to the United States. It’s a ten-day project and will focus on promoting religious pluralism and protecting the rights of religious minorities.
- In just a couple months, the State Department will host a three-day accelerated workshop called Boldline to support and scale innovative public-private partnerships that promote and defend religious freedom around the world. The open calls for proposals is now live on challenge.gov.
- Announcements will be given by several partner countries who have offered to host follow-up regional conferences to explore specific measures that whole regions can take to promote religious freedom.
- And finally the Potomac Declaration and the Potomac Plan of Action were released. The Potomac Declaration reflects the views of the United States government on the importance of promoting religious freedom, a universal human right, as a means to ensuring greater peace and stability within and among nations. The Potomac Plan of Action is a framework proposed by the United States government for activities that the international community can draw from to promote religious freedom and respond to abuses and violations of religious freedom or instances of persecution on account of religion, belief, or non-belief.
In closing, Secretary Pompeo thanked Ambassador at Large Sam Brownback and his staff for their work on this event, calling it a “remarkable and an incredibly important moment in America’s support for religious freedom”.
‘There is truly eternal significance in the work that we have done.” – he concluded.
More information on the Ministerial can be found here.
Photo: US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo delivers closing remarks (Flickr)