Expanding the Conversation on Religious Freedom

  • On July 16, we convened civil society, religious leaders and government officials to discuss the opportunities and challenges for promoting and defending religious freedom globally. Through a series of plenary sessions, participants discussed the necessary building blocks and emerging trends in advancing religious freedom, as well as how religious freedom, international development, and humanitarian aid can work together to advance mutual interests.

First Session

The first session opened with welcoming remarks by Secretary Michael R. Pompeo and by Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. Following their remarks, came a presentation by three survivors of religious persecution (Pittsburgh, Jewish; Sri Lanka, Christian; and New Zealand, Muslim). This session concluded with a General Session on “Working Together to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief.”

9:00– 9:20 am Welcoming Remarks by Secretary Michael R. Pompeo and Remarks by Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback
9:20 – 9:55 am Presentation by Survivors of Religious Persecution – (Pittsburgh, Jewish), (Sri Lanka, Christian), (New Zealand, Muslim)
9:55 – 11:15 am General Session: Working Together to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief
Speakers: Ján Figel, Special Envoy for Promotion of Freedom of Religion, European Union; Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief; Aud Marit Wiig, Special Envoy for Religious Freedom, Norwegian Foreign Ministry
11:15 – 12:55 pm Lunch

Second Session

The first day’s second section began with a presentation by Nadia Murad (Iraq, Yezidi), a survivor of religious persecution, and concluded with a General Session on “The Journey to Self-Reliance: Securing the Way to Religious Freedom.”

1:05 – 1:20 pm Presentation by Survivor of Religious Persecution – Nadia Murad (Iraq, Yezidi)
1:20 – 2:40 pm General Session: The Journey to Self-Reliance: Securing the Way to Religious Freedom
Speakers: USAID Administrator Mark Green; Ambassador-at-Large Deborah L. Birx, U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy; Tristan Azbej, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Hungary); Markus Grubel, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (Germany); Michal Wos, Cabinet Minister, Humanitarian Aid, Chancellery of Prime  Minister (Poland); Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop (South Africa)
2:40 – 3:10 pm Coffee Break

Third Session

A presentation by a survivor of religious persecution (China, Uighur) opened the third session, leading into the day’s last General Session, “Religious Freedom Challenges in China.” Lord David Alton then delivered remarks, before closing instructions by Ambassador Brownback with the Frank Wolf Award.

3:10 – 3:25 pm Presentation by Survivor of Religious Persecution (China, Uighur)
3:25 – 4:10 pm General Session: Religious Freedom Challenges in China
ModeratorAmbassador Sam Brownback

Speakers: U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; Representative (ret) Frank Wolf
4:10 – 4:25 pm Remarks by Lord David Alton
4:25 – 5:00 pm Closing Instructions by Ambassador Brownback with Frank Wolf Award

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future