On July 24-26, the United States hosted the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Foreign ministers, international organization representatives, religious leaders, and civil society representatives convened in Washington, D.C. to discuss concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination and ensure greater respect for religious freedom around the world.
U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback called the ministerial “the launch of an expanded conversation” about the fundamental right of all individuals to do with their own souls whatever they choose. It is a right, he said, no government should interfere with:
“It’s a right a government is instituted to protect…Not to pick a winner or loser; not to favor one over another.”
Ambassador Brownback said protecting and promoting religious freedom is the right thing to do because of the innate dignity of every human being; but there are also practical reasons to do so:
“Countries that have more religious freedom have less terrorism…We want the [global] economy to expand, and countries that have religious freedom have more growth in their economy.”
Many governments say they value religious freedom, Ambassador Brownback said; the ministerial is an opportunity for countries to learn ways to put concrete actions behind the words:
“They could appoint ambassadors for religious freedom…They could host events in their nation or region…to promote religious freedom. They can form round tables with civil society groups, religious groups in their country…and government officials could regularly meet with them to hear what the concerns are of the faith-based community.”
Ambassador Brownback said that protecting and promoting religious freedom is in the United States’ founding DNA. The Ministerial to Advance Religious freedom is an opportunity for other nations to be encouraged to “take the next steps to really drive this further in their nation, in their region, amongst their people.”