International Religious Freedom – What We Can Learn From the History of the International Religious Freedom Movement

Juicy Ecumenism| Sept. 24, 2018

On Thursday, September 20, the Save The Persecuted Christians (STPC) coalition held a summit in Washington, DC to discuss steps forward in the most effective way to help persecuted Christians around the world. In addition to members and prospective members of STPC, speakers included the Honorable Sam Brownback, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and long-time defender of the persecuted, now retiring as Distinguished Senior Fellow from 21Wilberforce, U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (retired).

 As a founding member of the coalition, and as the IRD’s International Religious Liberty Program Director with a long historyin the advocacy movement for global religious freedom (and, apparently, a longer memory and paper trail about important little details than most of my contemporaries!), I was also asked to speak to the 50 or so of us that gathered at the Hay Adams Hotel for the four-hour brainstorming session. The following is a transcript of my comments:

Thank you for the opportunity to share good, exciting memories of how the international religious freedom movement got started. Thank you to Ambassador Sam Brownback and Congressman Frank Wolf. Simply put, you are my heroes. You have been for many years. And thank you, all of you here, for being part of this Save The Persecuted Christians coalition. Our movement has brought me new hope and energy.

Next month is the 20th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act – a U.S. law that forever changed American policy on defending religious freedom. October is also my 25th anniversary as International Religious Liberty program director at the IRD. So I can tell you about the IRF movement from inside the thick of things – and how, as a result, I know how extremely important and timelyour new movement is.

St. Paul said: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” It isn’t always easy to not become weary in defending persecuted Christians. But it is a lot easier when there are many of us working together, encouraging each other.

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