Future Ready: Global Human Rights Movement Centered on Religious Freedom

80 percent of people in the world live in a religiously restricted environment. Future ready is about asking the right questions. Relative to international religious freedom, the United States is leading and partners are answering the call.

Last month Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C.  (Ministerial derives from the Latin word minister meaning “servant.”) Approximately 1,000 leaders-105 foreign government delegates, civil society, religious leaders, activists, policymakers and others-attended the largest religious freedom event of its kind in the world.

Over three days the diverse group of participants were challenged by Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Brownback, former UK Prime Minister Blair and others to reaffirm their commitments to promote religious freedom for all and focus on concrete outcomes that can produce durable, positive change. Ambassador Brownback referenced the historic meeting as the beginning of a global human rights movement centered on religious freedom.The formal meeting focused on three tracks: Building Blocks for Advancing Religious Freedom, Emerging Trends in Religious Freedom, and Religious Freedom in Development and Humanitarian Assistance.

Thirty survivors of persecution, including Nobel Prize winner Nadia Murad, former Turkish Prisoner of Conscience Pastor Andrew Brunson, and Mariam Ibraheem, shared their experiences along with specific policy recommendations for leaders to consider. The United States Government presented the first-ever international religious freedom awards to six individuals who have demonstrated incredible courage and perseverance. Former Congressman Frank Wolf (who previously served as Distinguished Senior Fellow at 21Wilberforce) and Lord Alton of Liverpool, member of the British House of Lords and human rights advocate, were recognized as the “fathers of the freedom of religion and belief movement.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former Congressman Frank Wolf spoke about religious freedom abuses in China, both in agreement on the challenges and practical initiatives that can make a difference on the ground. They demonstrated that international religious freedom does not have to be a partisan issue.

In addition to the formal program, the International Religious Freedom Roundtable encouraged members to leverage the event. And they did! Civil society and faith groups organized 82 side events in Washington, DC during the week of the Ministerial. The attendance was encouraging as well as the forward looking “call to action” that challenged participants.

The 21Wilberforce team was strategically engaged throughout the Ministerial as follows:

  • Co-hosted five side events during the Ministerial as follows: British Embassy Meet and Greet, Congressional Reception, Parliamentarians Best Practices Panel Discussion, Advocacy Training, and a Roundtable Leaders Workshop.
  • Created and updated daily the official IRF Roundtable Events Program. Ambassador Brownback highlighted the importance of this guide during a pre-Ministerial press conference.
  • Provided day-of and planning logistics for “Second Stage,” the IRF Roundtable’s official overflow and conference space for the Ministerial.
  • Released the 115th Congress IRF Congressional Scorecard, with support from Christianity Today, a vital tool for helping engage Americans on international religious freedom.
  • Released a joint report on establishing a new coalition of religious freedom leaders in Nigeria which formed the basis of how the State Department engages with IRF civil society networks.
  • Spearheaded a communications NGO and faith organizations working group to promote key messages to their constituents during the Ministerial.
  • Executed the social media strategy in partnership with a digital agency and our Summer Associates providing the main live tweeting of Ministerial official events.
  • Provided expertise on other panels, including on Evangelical responses to persecution and strategy for securing a vocation in religious freedom.

A special thanks to 21Wilberforce Summer Associates, Rachael Boyt and Trent Martin, who provided exemplary leadership leading up to and during the Ministerial.

Photo caption: Former 21Wilberforce editor, Erin Rodewald, and Summer Associates Rachael Boyt and Trent Martin, served as official social media “Tweeters”, reporting on the Ministerial and side events.