Former WEA Advocacy Officer Wissam al-Saliby during the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Photo: WEA Geneva Office

21Wilberforce Welcomes New President

Wissam al-Saliby has been appointed President of the 21Wilberforce Global Freedom Center. Al-Saliby is an internationally recognized expert in international religious freedom and human rights who brings more than fifteen years of experience in advocating for religious freedom at the United Nations, training and capacity building for human rights in the Middle East and around the world, and strategic leadership and organizational development.

“Wissam brings years of experience advocating for religious freedom for all at the highest levels, said 21Wilberforce Board Member Knox Thames. Wissam’s heart for the suffering has been widely recognized, especially his leadership and expertise that brings together meaningful government engagement and substantive grassroots training. With religious persecution spreading like a plague, 21Wilberforce, under the leadership of Wissam and the 21Wilberforce team, will continue to have a profound impact that protects religious freedom around the world and helps many who have faced the pain of persecution.”

Raised in Lebanon during a time of war and conflict and fluent in Arabic, French and English, since 2018, al-Saliby has served first as the Advocacy Officer and then the Director of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland for the World Evangelical Alliance, a network of 140 National Alliance representing 600 million evangelical Christians. Under his leadership, the Geneva Office has engaged the United Nations in direct advocacy in approximately 20 country situations each year. Al-Saliby has pioneered new efforts to help national alliances strengthen their religious freedom training and empower them as religious freedom leaders.

Before engaging with the United Nations, al-Saliby served as the Development and Partner Relations Manager at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS). In his role as Manager of Development and Partnership Relations at ABTS, al-Saliby was a member of the leadership team that set the vision of the seminary and helped shape its ministry. In addition to nurturing and cultivating existing relationships, he identified and built new relationships with churches, foundations, and individuals in the United States, Europe, and the Arab World.

Dedicated to human rights since the start of his career, al-Saliby founded and managed the Summer School on Law and Armed Conflict in Lebanon. He has also served as the National Coordinator and Lead Trainer for Geneva Call in Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. In that role, he traveled across the Middle East region for seven years training numerous multi-faith religious leaders, civil society groups, armed groups, and political parties in strengthening human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Al-Saliby graduated from Lebanese University with a bachelor’s degree in law with Distinction and then earned from the Université Paul Cézanne, France a master’s degree in international law with a specialization in Protection and Human Security.

In a recent profile about al-Saliby in World Magazine, he said that “for global advocacy to work, internal advocacy needs to happen first. “This is a grassroots effort. I tell them (citizens of Nigeria), ‘You cannot rely on people outside the country.” His new role with 21Wilberforce aligns with his perspective on equipping Christians in their own countries and communities.

Al-Saliby noted, “I am grateful for the ethos and vision of 21Wilberforce which was cultivated under the leadership of Randel Everett. As President of 21Wilberforce, I will be committed to serving and strengthening local church leaders around the globe facing discrimination, adversity, and persecution. I look forward to walking alongside them and exploring how we can partner in prayer, capacity building, resourcing, and giving them a seat at the table in international forums. 21Wilberforce is one of the best-positioned organizations to undertake such an endeavor and will be most effective as it brings the voices of local leaders to the forefront of advocacy and diplomacy for religious freedom and the rule of law.”

He is married to Ashley and together they have three children.