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.
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.
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.
Randy Dale is Director of Church Engagement for 21 Wilberforce, where he coordinates the development of the Global Impact Partners program for churches, faith-based institutions, and other partners. Randy works with President Randel Everett to recruit, train, and empower the Global Impact Partners, furthering 21 Wilberforce’s programs of network mobilization, leadership and advocacy training, and coalition building.
Randy comes to 21Wilberforce after practicing law, primarily as a governmental agency attorney and a criminal prosecutor, for 43 years. He first became intrigued with international religious freedom issues while serving in Afghanistan as a U. S. State Department contractor. Randy also served on church staffs in Austin and Abilene, Texas in education and recreation ministries, and recently retired after 50 years of officiating high school and small college football.
Randy earned a bachelor’s degree from Hardin-Simmons University, a Juris Doctor from St. Mary’s University, a Master’s in Religious Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Adult, Professional, and Community Education from Texas State University-San Marcos.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
Congressman Frank Wolf worked tirelessly for decades in the United States Congress to promote international religious freedom, later helping found and provide strategic direction at 21Wilberforce, where he served as Distinguished Senior Fellow. Known as the House’s “champion of human rights” and the “conscience of Congress,” Congressman Wolf served Virginia’s 10th District for 17 terms from 1981 until January 2015.
While in Congress, he was the co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan organization that works to raise awareness about international human rights issues.
Congressman Wolf has traveled the globe extensively to better understand the plight of the poor and oppressed, including much of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In Sudan, he led the first congressional delegation to Darfur to bring attention to the genocide there. He has also worked to call attention to the human rights abuses and religious persecution in the People’s Republic of China, Tibet, Romania, Nagorno-Karabakh, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Nigeria, and the Middle East.
Congressman Wolf championed and co-authored the International Religious Freedom Act, which infused religious freedom into U.S. foreign policy by creating the International Religious Freedom Office at the State Department headed by an Ambassador-at-Large. It also established the bipartisan, independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom as both a watchdog of repressive regimes and a truth- teller to the State Department.
André Simão is a tax attorney by profession and a religious freedom advocate by passion.
Holding an LL.B and a Master in Law, he provides advisory services in Brazil for national and international companies, mainly in the oil & gas, naval construction, and automotive industry. At the same time, throughout his career, André has assisted pro bono several local churches, missionary organizations, and Baptist Conventions entities, and served at the Rio de Janeiro Evangelical Hospital board of directors for many years.
His passion for missions and human rights, enhanced by previous experiences as a local correspondent to Open Doors Brazil, led him to a sense of calling to stand with vulnerable brothers and sisters harassed for their faith in numerous countries. Getting involved in successful advocacy efforts, taken in 2013, together with the BWA, to release a pastor imprisoned overseas on religious grounds also emboldened such commitment.
André is engaged with the BWA Commission on Religious Freedom since 2012 and serves as its current vice-chair (2020-2025). André has conducted research on subjects related to religious freedom concerns in Latin America and Brazil and has participated as a consultant in the Latin American Regional Consultation Process of the G20 Interfaith Forum (IF20).
André is a member of the Itacuruçá Baptist Church, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he lives with his wife Daniela and their two little daughters, Sofia and Luísa.
Jim Denison, PhD, is an author, speaker, and the CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content.
Dallas-based Denison Ministries includes DenisonForum.org, First15.org, ChristianParenting.org, and FoundationsWithJanet.org. Dr. Denison speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at DenisonForum.org and DrJimDenison.com, as well as on radio, TV, podcasts, and social media. Dr. Denison speaks approximately 25 times per year at events, seminars, and churches and is a frequent guest on radio and television programs. He is also the author of over 30 books.
He has taught the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Dr. Denison serves as Resident Scholar for Ethics with Baylor Scott & White Health, where he addresses issues such as genetic medicine and reproductive science.
He holds a Doctor of Philosophy and a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Dallas Baptist University. Dr. Denison is the Theologian in Residence for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia.
Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two married sons and four grandchildren.