Who We Are

Vision & Mission

21Wilberforce is a Christian human rights organization dedicated to defending the universal rights of religion, belief, and conscience for all people. Our vision is to empower people to collaboratively support persecuted communities, challenge repression, and expand freedom of religion and belief globally.

We took our name from 19th century, British parliamentarian William Wilberforce who identified the slave trade as the single greatest violation of human rights. Responding to this seemingly impossible challenge, he led a successful abolition movement using a “top-down, bottom-up” strategy featuring collaborative partnerships, grassroots empowerment, and policy campaigns.

Wilberforce for the 21st Century. 21Wilberforce is employing this powerful model to mobilize grassroots networks through collaborative technologies to aid the persecuted and advance freedom worldwide.

Our History

Reflections on the history of 21Wilberforce from President and Founder Randel Everett:

Throughout the past 25 years I have traveled to more than 40 countries where I learned firsthand about the challenges people of faith were facing because of oppression and persecution. During a recent trip to Turkey, a pastor from Syria asked me a haunting question: “They are burning our churches, killing our men, and raping our women but the church in the West does not care.

21Wilberforce Executive Team

Wissam al-Saliby

Biographical Summary

Elisabeth Foster

Office Director
Biographical Summary

John Gongwer

Executive Director
Biographical Summary

Trent Martin

Advocacy & Training Coordinator
Biographical Summary

Lou Sabatier

Director of Communications
Biographical Summary

Dr. Randel Everett

Founder and President Emeritus
Biographical Summary

Learn About What We Do

Our History

In 2014, Dr. Randel Everett, a long-time religious freedom advocate, founded 21Wilberforce as a Christian international human rights nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education, advocacy, and support for the persecuted and to defend the fundamental right of all people to freedom of religion and belief. He was joined in this effort by former Virginia Congressman Frank R. Wolf, a leading champion of international religious freedom in Congress for over 30 years and after whom the landmark 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (now U.S. law) was named.

Originally formed as the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, our organization took our name from the 19th century British parliamentarian William Wilberforce, who identified the slave trade as the single greatest violation of human rights in his time. Responding to this seemingly impossible challenge, he led a successful abolition movement using a “top-down, bottom-up” strategy that coordinated political advocacy with grassroots mobilization, empowerment, and collaborative action.

Today, we employ Wilberforce’s powerful model to engage grassroots networks, people of faith, and policymakers in addressing one of the greatest human rights crises and challenges in the 21st Century—denial and suppression of the universal and fundamental human right of every individual to be free to choose and practice his or her own faith and beliefs without fear of government or social intimidation, repression, or persecution.


Wissam al-Saliby

Prior to joining 21Wilberforce as President, Wissam al-Saliby was 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 alliances 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 also pioneered new efforts to help national alliances strengthen their religious freedom training and empower them as religious freedom leaders.

Before his work 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.

A committed human rights leader from the beginning of his career, al-Saliby previously co-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 and 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.


Elisabeth Foster

With a passion for justice and a heart for the downtrodden, Elisabeth Foster has been with 21Wilberforce since its inception in 2015, serving as Office Director. As command central, Elisabeth manages daily operations for the office, ensuring an efficient and smooth-running enterprise.

Prior to 21Wilberforce, she completed an internship in India with International Justice Mission and served as a staffer on Capitol Hill. Elisabeth holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, with a minor in International Business.

John Gongwer, Executive Director

John Gongwer

John Gongwer is the Executive Director of the 21Wilberforce Global Freedom Center and the founder of iCatalyst, a strategic advisory practice that partners with select innovators to prototype collaborative solutions for public and private sectors. John serves as 21Wilberforce’s technology and strategic architect for network development, leadership laboratory, online learning and collaborative platforms, and supervises the team’s various research and action programs.

He serves on the leadership teams of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable and the Washington, DC-based IRF Summit, on a variety of human rights action teams, and as a UN Representative in Geneva and New York for a 51-million-member worldwide alliance. He currently leads the effort to develop a Global Defenders Network and is the architect of an integrated global online hub and resource center for civil society and parliamentary FoRB groups worldwide.

His background includes co-founding and directing the operations of a Silicon Valley software company, serving as a consultant to various U.S. Government agencies, working in the U.S. Senate researching and publishing on senior legislative policy decision-making,  and initiating and directing international development programs. He’s traveled to some 80 countries, studied bedouin nomads and indigenous cultures, lived and worked with Transylvanian shepherds and coal miners, and is a certified scuba Divemaster.

John holds graduate degrees from the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, his latest research focusing on strategies to achieve disruptive innovation through collaborative emergent networks.

Trent Martin, Advocacy & Training

Trenton Martin

Trent Martin serves as the Advocacy and Training Coordinator at the 21Wilberforce Global Freedom Center, where he works with teams and partners to empower advocacy communities and equip the next generation of religious freedom advocates.

A former 21Wilberforce Associate and Global Leaders Fellow, Trent facilitates 21Wilberforce’s policy advocacy engagement through religious freedom forums and action teams in Washington and as an NGO representative to the United Nations.

Trent also serves in developing 21Wilberforce’s global youth/emerging leaders training program. He has helped coordinate and implement several programs to train young advocates, including 21Wilberforce’s global youth/emerging leaders training program, the International Religious Freedom Summit Youth Track, and Boat People SOS’ NextGen Leadership Program. 

Lou Sabatier, Director of Communications

Lou Ann Sabatier

With four decades of experience in publishing, marketing and communications, Lou Ann Sabatier drives the branding and messaging activities for 21Wilberforce as Director of Communications.

She directs communications training and oversees design and management of the website, newsletters, social media, collateral materials, press, and key strategic communication publications. She manages and designs the International Religious Freedom Congressional Scorecard, a comprehensive educational tool that highlights the voting records of members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for bills, resolutions, and amendments that support international religious freedom. She also co-authored The 20th Anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act: A Retrospective, featuring reflections from key international religious freedom participants and a timeline of the collaborative efforts that ensued to integrate international religious freedom within U.S. foreign policy.

Throughout her career, Sabatier served in senior management for publishing operations in the U.S. and globally and provided ongoing consulting to publishers and content creators. In that role, she was the CEO of Media DC, whose properties include The Weekly Standard, The Washington Examiner, and Red Alert Politics.

Dr. Randel Everett, President

Dr. Randel Everett

Religious freedom has always been a top priority for Dr. Randel Everett, who founded 21Wilberforce in 2014 to focus attention on religious persecution abroad and the enduring importance of religious liberty in the United States.

As President, Randel leads the 21Wilberforce team, often on the front lines internationally. He spent four decades pastoring churches in Florida, Virginia, Arkansas and Texas. He founded the John Leland Center for Theological Studies, led the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and currently serves in leadership for the Baptist World Alliance.

Throughout his career, Randel has traveled to nearly 40 countries and witnessed persecution first-hand.