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Religion

Ten Things that Caught My Eye about the Ministerial on Advancing Religious Freedom

Participants at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom held at the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C. on July 16-18, 2019. (State Department photo/Public Domain)

A few items from the ongoing ministerial on religious freedom sponsored by the U.S. State Department in D.C. – which is really a challenging, inspiring, embarrassment of riches. It’s a good use of government, convening people from government, churches, and civil society who are on the front-lines of fighting for religious liberty and protecting religious minorities – many of these are true people of courage.

1. Shawn Taseer delivered moving remarks about his father, the former governor of Punjab, who was killed for standing up to the blasphemy law there. He pointed out that while his father specifically was killed defending Asia Bibi, who is now finally free, “there are 200 Asia Bibis in jail in Pakistan today.” He described them as prisoners of conscience who are include the elderly, sick, and illiterate. “Abandon them at your peril.”

2. The Knights of Columbus have made Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and the cradle there a priority over the past few years – they are on the ground, rebuilding towns and lives. From the end of their head, Carl Anderson’s talk today:

During a visit to Iraq earlier this year, I was told repeatedly that security is the primary concern of those trying to return home after ISIS. The Knights of Columbus along with other organizations, and the United States, and other countries including have spent millions of dollars to assist returns by targeted communities to Nineveh – the place that has been their home for millennia.

But this is being threatened by the unaccountable PMF forces, which the government of Iraq in Baghdad seems unwilling or unable to control. Reports of abuse by PMF forces is common. As a result, minority communities fear to return, and every day more slip away from Iraq.

If the destruction of these communities by ISIS is completed by the PMF, Baghdad will bear responsibility for the loss of its minorities.

Before I visited Iraq in March, I met with Pope Francis who told me that the Middle East without Christians is not the Middle East. The Iraqi ambassador to the United States often says something similar: Iraq without its minorities is not Iraq.

Keeping [Christians safe in Iraq and the Middle East] is a priority for all us, but is the particular responsibility of the national governments there. They owe it to their people to protect all of their people, regardless of the faith they profess. We stand at a critical juncture, and we urge Baghdad and the other governments of the Middle East to take the protection and preservation of their minority communities seriously.

As this ministerial makes clear, the world is watching.

3.

4. Pelosi, Wolf urge US to call out China for religious freedom abuses.

5. Survivors of massacres speak out against bigotry.

6. The persecuted on forgiveness

7.

8. FCC chairman Ajit Pai on using technology to oppress and free

9. There will be a U.S-Vatican summit on religious freedom in October.

10. To give you some idea of the scope and catch some of the livestream, here’s the website.

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