21W Board member, Knox Thames, one of the foremost experts on FoRB and a former USCIRF and U.S. State Department policymaker, inspired and challenged our global Timothy Fellows during their recent monthly virtual meeting. Knox, who is a visiting expert at the US Insitute of Peace and a professor at Pepperdine University, is the author of the forthcoming book: “ENDING PERSECUTION: How We Can Solve the Pandemic of Religious Persecution,” to be published by Notre Dame Press in summer 2024.
During his time with the Timothy Fellows, Knox spoke about the following:
- The various types of religious freedom violations that are found around the world and what are ways that the Timothy Fellows could respond or encourage their community to respond to these challenges;
- Faith communities need to speak out on these issues. Working to support people of other faith does not mean that they need to compromise their own beliefs. Especially as Christians, it should flow from our belief that God has made all people in His image and that we are commanded to love our neighbors just as the good Samaritan loved someone outside his own culture.
- How to craft effective “asks” for policymakers to take action. Keep the “ask” brief (1-2 pages) and suggest an easily attainable “ask” and a stretch “ask.”
- Always remember that the first rule of advocacy is to do no harm.
In 2022, 21Wilberforce launched a new initiative called “Timothy Fellows” for young Baptist professionals and students around the world. Five of six regions within the Baptist World Alliance are represented and the first ten Fellows hail from the Benin, Brazil (2), Bulgaria, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Nigeria, United Kingdom and the U.S.
21Wilberforce President Randel Everett and Trent Martin, 21W Advocacy and Training Coordinator lead the emerging leader cohort. The three-year training program is designed to help the Fellows gain a deeper understanding of religious persecution and effective means to challenge oppression in their communities. Training focuses on:
- learning best practices for transformational leadership
- becoming informed about the foundational right of religious freedom for all people
- understanding historic Baptist positions on religious freedom
- identifying communities of concern who are facing religious oppression
- developing and implementing strategies for defending the persecuted
- providing resources for challenging unjust laws and practices
Their virtual bi-monthly meetings feature experts that broaden their knowledge of religious freedom, advocacy skills, and leadership abilities in interactive discussions. The cohort meets once a year in person at the annual BWA Conference held in different locations around the world. The cohort first met at the BWA Annual Gathering in Birmingham, Alabama in July of 2022. Since that time, the fellows have worked together virtually on a project to map the opportunities and challenges for religious freedom in their regions.