In his keynote address on the final day of the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the event “the largest human rights ministerial ever held at the United States Department of State.”
“It proves that religious freedom matters to literally billions of people all around the world…It’s all of our concern. It is everyone’s concern.”
Tony Perkins is Chair of the bi-partisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal government body established by Congress to raise awareness of the importance of religious freedom and to make policy recommendations to the President and Secretary of State. He said the attendance and scope of the Ministerial this year show the commitment of the United States to championing religious liberty:
“And on this second gathering of international leaders, we see a growing interest among global leaders to acknowledge this fundamental human right of religious freedom.”
Chairman Perkins said there have been tangible results from the decision by the Trump administration to make the promotion of religious liberty a top priority:
”From the first meeting that took place last year we saw advancements, where we saw a growth of International Religious Freedom roundtables where people are discussing this global [issue]. We saw countries like the UAE [United Arab Emirates] stepping up to want to host regional gatherings to focus on the advancement of religious freedom.”
In addition, this year the Ministerial issued nine statements of concern signed by a variety of different countries. They include statements deploring religious persecution by China, Iran, Burma and non-state actors, as well as the use of surveillance technologies to repress religious freedom or commit other violations of human rights.
Another statement, highlighted by Chairman Perkins, includes a call on the international community to equip and challenge foreign governments to provide greater protection for houses of worship.
Chairman Perkins noted that while some 80 percent of the world’s population currently lives in places where religious freedom is under threat, he remains optimistic that more societies will see that when religious freedom is respected, “other things fall into place,” including economic and social stability.
With the United States government so focused on the promotion of religious liberty around the world, Mr. Perkins said, there is hope that “we can move the needle on this issue…and see more people being able to exercise [their] God-given freedom of religion.”