As he prepared for the State Department’s second summit on global religious liberty next week, Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador on religious freedom issues, defended the event against critics who say that the first summit failed to accomplish more than creating new statements about helping religious minorities.
In a telephone briefing with reporters on Friday (July 12), Brownback, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, cited efforts in Iraq, where a partnership that includes the U.S. Agency for International Development has begun to assist “the redevelopment and repopulating of northern Iraq by Yazidis and Christians that had been run out during ISIS.”
He also pointed to the International Religious Freedom Fund, established at last year’s ministerial to help religious persecution victims, for which the department has collected millions of dollars from donors. He said money from that fund was “offered in Sri Lanka after the Easter bombings,” in which more than 250 people were killed in terrorist attacks on churches and hotels.
The ambassador painted the summits as catalysts for interfaith understanding and support.
“Our effort is to stir actions. We want to see really a global grassroots movement around religious freedom,” said Brownback. “We want to get the various faiths to bind together and to stand for each other’s freedom of religion.”
He said the focus of the July 16-18 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom will be on mutual respect but not a common approach to theology.
“There is no common theology in this discussion, but it is towards a common human right,” he said.
“And that human right is that everybody is entitled to be able to practice their faith peacefully and without fear.”
Brownback said the summit will be “the biggest religious freedom event ever held in the world,” with two days of discussions among religious leaders and civil society activists and a final day with as many as 115 invited foreign ministers.
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Source: Religion News Service