Religious persecution must stop, US envoy says

Vice President Mike Pence was supposed to address the issue during his recent trip to the Middle East, but he made few strides during his visit.

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February 7, 2018 18:15
2 minute read.
Then-Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback chats with young Jews at a conference

Then-Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback chats with a group from the Young Jewish Conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland in 2015. (photo credit: MIKE THEILER/REUTERS)

 
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What the world needs most is to stop religious persecution, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said in his first public speech this week.

“I think religious freedom is the most important foreign relations topic today,” he told the Alliance of Virtue for the Common Good Conference in Washington. “The world needs reconciliation. It needs it between the Abrahamic faiths.”

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Wednesday is the last day of the three-day conference, which was hosted by the Middle East-based Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. During Wednesday’s proceedings, delegates will sign the Washington Declaration, which will build upon the January 2016 Marrakesh Declaration. That 2016 declaration was signed by more than 350 faith leaders and heads of state from more than 60 countries, and it called to protect of religious minorities in Muslim-majority populations. The final line of the declaration reads: “Affirm that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.”

In his speech, Brownback also said he would ensure that he would be working with foreign governments, as well as the US government, to do whatever he could to make a change in the world.

“This administration has made it clear that this a foreign policy and national security objective,” he said. “I look forward to hearing from you how we can collectively and collaboratively achieve this shared objective. Your initiative serves as a model for what can be achieved when people from the Abrahamic faith backgrounds join together in a common cause,” he indicated.

Brownback, who was sworn in as the head of the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Office last week, is the former governor of Kansas. In the ambassadorship, he will lead the Office of International Religious Freedom, which is under the umbrella of the State Department and charged with promoting religious freedom as a foreign policy objective.

The Office of International Religious Freedom monitors religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, recommends and implements policies in respective regions or countries, and develops programs to promote religious freedom.

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He has a difficult task ahead of him. Last month, Open Doors released its annual report on the persecution of Christians worldwide, which showed that about 215 million Christians are being persecuted due to their faith, representing 1 in 12 Christians worldwide.

Vice President Mike Pence was supposed to address the issue during his recent trip to the Middle East, but he made few strides during his visit.

Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini suggested creating a type of religious “united nations.”

“Such a body would stand ready to intervene in the constructive manner when political crisis or other disputes arise,” he said. “If religion is part of the problem, it is also part of the solution. Both religious and political actors share the moral responsibility to make sure that this rings true.”
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