The third annual Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Award celebrates an outstanding leader who is working to advance freedom of religion or belief by standing up to oppression in the pursuit of freedom of religion, belief, or conscience. 21Wilberforce Founder and President, Randel Everett, announced that the award will be presented to Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. Ambassador Sam Brownback has an extensive track record of working in a bipartisan manner to promote religious freedom and other human rights for people around the globe.
During his sixteen years as a Congressman and U.S. Senator, Brownback was a leading advocate for international religious freedom, advocating for landmark policy reforms as well as prisoners of conscience wrongly incarcerated for their faith. He was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) that established a legal mandate for the promotion of religious freedom as an element of U.S. foreign policy. The IRFA also created Brownback’s current position in the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and established the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Ambassador Brownback was the first senator to go to Darfur in 2004 during the genocide as part of Congressional delegation led by Congressman Frank Wolf. Brownback returned from that trip and spoke out to help the people of Sudan. He was also highly active in working on religious freedom issues in Egypt, China, North Korea, and many other countries.
Since his confirmation as Ambassador in 2018, Brownback has worked to build a global movement among civil society groups and governments to advance international religious freedom. Under his leadership, the U.S. initiated and has held two historic annual Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom meetings in Washington, DC, forged a working relationship with the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, and is working to launch 100 similar Roundtables in countries around the world.
The inspiration for the award comes from Congressman Frank Wolf, who has worked tirelessly for decades to promote international religious freedom and later served as Distinguished Senior Fellow at 21Wilberforce. Known as the House’s “champion of human rights” and “conscience of Congress,” he served Virginia’s 10th District for 17 terms from 1982 until January 2015.
Congressman Wolf has traveled the globe extensively to call attention to human rights abuses and religious persecution. He championed and co-authored the International Religious Freedom Act.
“It means a lot me that 21Wilberforce has chosen to present this award to Ambassador Brownback. Sam and I have been friends for many years and we worked together on several issues,” said Congressman Frank Wolf. “When Sam was in Congress, he stood out for his interest in human rights and religious freedom. He and I were the first two members to go to Darfur during the genocide. Sam came back and led the effort to declare what was happening there. And he has continued to admirably champion human rights and international religious freedom during his tenure as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.”
Past recipients of the award include Archbishop Ben and Dr. Gloria Kwashi of Jos, Nigeria, and the city of Midland, Texas. The 2020 Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Award virtual ceremony will be held late September.