Washington D.C. – Over one thousand religious leaders and civil society delegates are gathering at the U.S. State department for the second Ministerial to advance Religious Freedom from Tuesday July 16th through Thursday July 18th, 2019. This is coming on the heels of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s Report released last May and the State department’s annual report last June which highlight “the continuing and complex challenges to religious freedom.”
“This year’s event will be the biggest religious freedom event ever held in the world, said Ambassador Brownback. “We hope that this will stir actions. That’s what we’re after is to stir action.”
Banking on the success of the inaugural event that took place last year, Brownback is hoping that this year’s event will galvanize grassroots mobilization. And this is not unprecedented given a similar feat had been attained with the fight against human trafficking.
“Ultimately, we’re after a grassroots movement. We want one in the religious freedom space as well, and that the religious actors would stand up for each other,” declared Ambassador Brownback in a telephonic presser last Friday. “It’s a big deal to this administration. It is a big deal to the people of the world. The world has not paid enough attention to what’s taking place here and the plight of so many people that have been injured, and over 70 percent of the world lives in a religious-restrictive environment and many cases, unfortunately a deadly environment. So, we hope to really push back and start this grassroots movement seriously to push back against it,” added Brownback.
The weeklong event is divided into three parts with the first day focusing on “Expanding the Conversation on Religious Freedom” where discussions will focus on “opportunities and challenges for promoting and defending religious freedom globally.” Then there will be a shift on how to forge a partnership between international freedom, international development and humanitarian aid to advance mutual interests.
After the broad strokes laid down on day one participants will take a deep dive into the issues raised. These sessions shall focus on three thematic tracks namely Building Blocks for Advancing Religious Freedom, Emerging Trends in Religious Freedom, Religious Freedom in Development and Humanitarian Assistance best practices for religious freedom advocacy;
On the third day, sessions will focus on governments’ role with a keynote address and call to action by Secretary of State Pompeo, Vice President Michael Pence and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Participants will take part in plenary sessions focused on “identifying global challenges to religious freedom; developing innovative responses to persecution on the basis of religion; and sharing new commitments to protect religious freedom for all.”
The international gathering kicked off Monday with a solemn event at the Holocaust Museum and will conclude Thursday at the National Museum for African American History and Culture.
Given the enormous interest this topic has garnered, a “Second Stage” has been set up with 80 parallel events taking place at the Marvin Center on the campus of George Washington University.