Sam Brownback, United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, on July 24, 2018, called for action by governments, individuals, and activist organizations to work together to protect religious freedom around the world.
His remarks came in Washington in opening remarks to the first Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, sponsored by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The event is July 24-26 and focuses on concrete outcomes that reaffirm international commitments to promote religious freedom and produce real, positive change. Participants include a broad range of stakeholders, including foreign ministers, international organization representatives, religious leaders, and civil society representatives, to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.
“We need to use all the might, machinery, and moral authority we have to stop those nations and actors that trample on free souls,” Brownback said. “The lack of religious freedom anywhere is a threat to peace, prosperity, and stability everyone.”
The ambassador recalled a comment from the previous day during an event at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, when someone commented on how unimaginable evil is. But he said our job is to stop it.
“People around the world are being brutalized or killed for practicing their faith,” Brownback said. “This cannot be allowed to continue.”
In a July 4, 2018, speech in Rome, US Ambassador to the Vatican Calista Gingrich also stressed the importance of religious freedom, urging the Vatican and the United States to work together on this important issue.
“Today, millions of people around the world suffer under oppression and tyranny – deprived of freedom, security, and prosperity,” Gingrich said. “Faced with these great challenges, the United States and the Holy See share a deep and enduring commitment to advancing freedom and justice around the world.”
Brownback pointed out that the conference included people from every faith community: “everyone who cares about religious freedom and will join us in the cause. Religious freedom is a right given by God, a beautiful part of our human dignity.”
A number of political and human rights leaders are speaking at the event. Also on the agenda are several people who have survived religious persecution or who representing persons currently imprisoned.
“The right to believe or not believe is the most fundamental of freedoms,” said US Vice President Mike Pence on July 26, 2018. “When religious liberty is denied or destroyed, we know that other freedoms — freedom of speech, of press, assembly, and even democratic institutions themselves — are imperiled.”
His remarks came in Washington on the final day of the first Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, sponsored by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The event ran July 24-26 and focused on concrete outcomes that reaffirm international commitments to promote religious freedom and produce real, positive change. Participants included a broad range of stakeholders, including foreign ministers, international organization representatives, religious leaders, and civil society representatives, to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.
Pence singled out several examples of religious persecution currently happening around the world. In particular, he cited the situation in Nicaragua, which has been an ongoing concern of Pope Francis and the Vatican.
“The list of religious freedom violators is long; their crimes and oppressions span the width of our world,” Pence said. “Here in our own hemisphere, in Nicaragua, the government of Daniel Ortega is virtually waging war on the Catholic Church. For months, Nicaragua’s bishops have sought to broker a national dialogue following pro-democracy protests that swept through the country earlier this year.
But government-backed mobs armed with machetes, and even heavy weapons, have attacked parishes and church properties, and bishops and priests have been physically assaulted by the police.”
The vice president continued with an affirmation of the commitment to religious freedom and working with other nations to further its cause. “Since the earliest days of our nation, America has stood for religious freedom,” Pence said. “Our earliest settlers left their homes to set sail for a New World, where they could practice their faith without fear of persecution. Our forebears carved protections for religion into the founding charters and their early laws.
“And after this great nation secured our independence, the American Founders enshrined religious freedom as the first freedom in the Constitution of the United States. And America has always, and will always, lead the world by our example.”