WASHINGTON, DC – Trump and Biden administration officials and both Republican and Democratic members of Congress displayed unity of purpose Wednesday at the second annual IRF Summit on International Religious Freedom.
They agreed on the need to combat hatred, discrimination, genocide and other violence against religious people around the world.
“The United States will stand up for religious freedom around the world,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a member of President Biden’s cabinet.
“Religious freedom is fundamental to a free society,” said Blinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, the last secretary of state in the Trump administration.
Such bipartisanship is the goal of the IRF summit, said co-chairs Sam Brownback and Katrina Lantos Swett, who previously served as US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Downtown DC. They model it as they begin the summit together on stage in a conference hall at the Renaissance Hotel in K.
The IRF summit fell unexpectedly five days later when the US Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade and two days later the court ruled that high school football coaches had the right to pray in midfield after games. Some on Twitter and other social platforms said the decisions were divisive. The speakers of the summit sought common ground.
Brownback is a Republican, a former Trump appointee, and a former governor and US senator from Kansas. Swett is a Democrat, a former Obama-appointed and Senate staffer for Biden.
“Our simple motto is religious freedom for all, everywhere, at all times,” said Brownback, a Catholic who called religious freedom “the most abused human right in the world today.”
“It’s a completely non-partisan issue,” said Swett, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Everyone – Democrats and Republicans, right and left and center – have come together to defend this fundamental right.”
Blinken and several other government and religious leaders said this is a right that matters even to those who are not religious.
“Freedom of religion is a human right. It is an important part of our identity,” said Blinken, who, like Pompeo, appeared at the conference by video. “Follow whatever belief system you hold, or any Choose not to follow the belief system.”
Republicans and Democrats are emulating bipartisanship on the issue in Congress as well.
“The United States has an important role to play in shedding light on violations of religious freedom around the world, and we are working to make that happen,” said Sen. Marco Rubio of R-Florida.
For example, the Senate and the House six months ago passed the Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act to protect Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region. The law makes it US policy that all goods made in Xinjiang are made by forced labor and directs the President of the United States to ban those who know how to use Muslim labor.
The vote was unanimous in the Senate and 428-1 in the House.
A similarly overwhelming bipartisan vote during the Trump administration led to the passage of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act.
Rubio on Wednesday announced an ongoing bipartisan collaboration on religious freedom.
“I am pleased to announce that we have a bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the US Commission on International Religious Freedom so that it can continue its important work of uncovering religious freedom violations around the world, ” They said. a short video Top presentation.
“The commission is absolutely necessary,” he said. “In the past year alone, it has helped us identify how conflict and chaos (religious freedom) have been violated in Afghanistan, Ukraine and beyond.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken🙂 ): “Like all of you in this gathering, there is a deep and enduring commitment to protecting and promoting religious freedom for all people in the United States, everywhere. Freedom of religion is a human right…” 1 /2 #IRFSmit2022 @Deseret
— Tad Walch (@Tad_Walch) June 29, 2022
The ghost of murder, hanging, forcible organ amputation, rape, imprisonment and other consequences of religious intolerance engulfed the conference.
Booths in the convention center hallway at the Renaissance Hotel call attention to the persecution of religious people from around the world. A hallway included banners highlighting specific people who had been killed or imprisoned for their beliefs.
A video from the Samaritans Purse during the second main session of the conference warned, “every two hours a Nigerian Christian dies.”
Speakers pleaded for help and understanding for their people’s plight, as did Salima Mazari, a former district governor in Afghanistan who spoke about the Taliban’s persecution of her Hazara people.
Pompeo opens a panel discussion on the national security implications of religious persecution. Several speakers said that religious freedom is inseparable from other basic human rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
“Religious freedom is a harbinger of things to come. It is the canary in the mine of what is to come in the future” in any given country, said one panelist, Lord David Elton.
“If you don’t understand the state of religious freedom in a country, you don’t understand much about it,” he said. “If you understand that, you get a very good idea of the situation in that country.”
He called religious freedom an “orphan right” around the world and said religious illiteracy leads to widespread instability around the world, Lord Elton said. This includes its role as a driving factor for many of the world’s more than 70 million refugees, he said.
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to believe, the right not to believe, and the right to change beliefs. Violation of those rights has consequences for any country, he said.
“It is the behavior of governments, if they are really interested in the common good to understand religious communities. If they don’t understand them, they are going to struggle,” said Andrew Bennett of the Institute for Religious Freedom, which Was Canada’s first ambassador for religious freedom.
However, the US State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report, released earlier this month, showed that many countries continue to repress religious freedom.
Rashad Hussein, the US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, said: “So far too many governments have remained steadfast in repressing their citizens.”
First, governments continue to use discriminatory laws and policies to mistreat their own people. Second, growing social intolerance and hatred fueled violence and conflict around the world. And third, effective collaboration between governments, multilateral partners and civil society has brought about positive change and is expected to address these complex challenges.
Brownback said that religious freedom offered a solution to national ills. Religions can also help each other.
“Religion is an entity that can stand before the government which the government cannot tame,” he said.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared via video to present a panel about the impact of religious freedom violations against women around the world. He said that attacks on religious freedom have harsh and adverse effects on women.
“This injustice has taken many ill forms around the world,” Pelosi said, adding that “all freedom-loving people have an obligation” to stand up for religious freedom.
Speakers said that the repeated calls for unity of purpose across religions, governments and other areas of civil society were calls to transform cultures within religions and into the wider society.
“Some people are terrible people to each other based on their beliefs. We need to be open about it,” said Alison Ralph of the Aspen Institute’s Religion and Society Program. “The inability to talk about it doesn’t do us any good. Doesn’t provide any kind of service. Religion is a mine of individual and collective misery. If we can’t talk about it, we can’t solve any of these problems. It’s about changing our culture so that we can move forward together.”
Brownback said the IRF summit is a way to instigate change.
“It’s a friendship summit,” he said. “Choose a project. Choose multiple projects and start working together.”
Other leaders also put up similar notes.
“I am grateful to everyone present today for their leadership and dedication to religious freedom,” Rubio said. “I look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that all people have the right to worship safely and peacefully.”
The summit continues on Thursday with a full day of panel discussions.
The summit concludes with a gala that will include the presentation of the IRF’s Impact Awards and talks between Swett and former NBA player Ans Cantor Freedom. Cantor Freedom is a practicing Muslim and religious rights activist.