The second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, from July 16 to 18, is the largest religious freedom event of its kind in the world. With more than 1,000 civil society and religious leaders, and more than 100 foreign delegations invited, this year’s gathering marks the first time a Secretary of State has convened back-to-back Ministerials on the same human rights issue. Last year’s inaugural Ministerial was the first-ever to focus solely on the inalienable human right of religious freedom.
As Secretary Pompeo stated in Brussels in December, the United States is dedicated to building a liberal order that supports “institutions that work in American interests” and in the “service of our shared values” with allies and partners around the world.
He noted that the Ministerial for Religious Freedom represents the kind of flexible, voluntary, and nimble multilateralism that serves nation-states’ interests best. The Ministerial and related events bring together an incredibly diverse group of religious leaders, government officials, civil society representatives, and people of faith for the common good.
In his remarks to open the event, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted the broad range of participants: Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Falun Gong, and Secular.
“I want to thank everyone here who has committed a part of their life to helping those who are persecuted and to defending the inalienable right to practice one’s religion and follow their conscience and to take care of their soul,” Pompeo said. “And despite our many differences, everyone here agrees on the need for religious pluralism.
“And we all agree that fighting so that each person is free to believe, free to assemble, and to teach the tenets of his or her own faith is not optional – indeed, it is a moral imperative that this be permitted. All people from every place on the globe must be permitted to practice their faith openly – in their homes, in their places of worship, in the public square – and believe what they want to believe.”
The Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services, USA and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued the following statement:
“Our faith reminds us that religious freedom is the cornerstone of a just society which is increasingly under threat. 77 percent of the world’s population, 5.5 billion, live in 83 countries with high or very high restrictions on the practice of religion. We are witnessing entire communities around the world pay with their lives to exercise freedom of conscience and faith. I am pleased to participate in this Ministerial, and support our government’s efforts to promote freedom of conscience and religion for all.”
On July 17, Secretary Pompeo will host the State Department’s first-ever International Religious Freedom Awards ceremony to honor extraordinary advocates of religious freedom from around the world.
The full biographies of the 2019 awardees can be found here and their names are listed below:
- Mohamed Yosaif Abdalrahan of Sudan has worked tirelessly to defend the rights of Sudan’s religious minorities, both in his legal casework and through public advocacy.
- Imam Abubakar Abdullahi of Nigeria selflessly risked his own life to save members of another religious community, who would have likely been killed without his intervention.
- Ivanir dos Santos of Brazil worked exhaustively to support interfaith dialogue, combat discrimination, and create mechanisms for the protection of vulnerable groups.
- William and Pascale Warda of Iraq have devoted their lives to advancing religious freedom and other human rights causes in Iraq.
- Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud of Cyprus has fully committed herself to working with religious leaders, faith-based organizations, and religious communities on a broad range of issues, including religious freedom. She is also one of the architects and facilitators of an unprecedented peacebuilding initiative in Cyprus known as the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process under the Auspices of the Embassy of Sweden based in Nicosia, Cyprus.
Following are Secretary Pompeo’s Full Remarks
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo
At the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom
July 16, 2019
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning everyone. I want to take it all in. This is a fantastic group. Thank you all so much for being here. Welcome to the State Department. And to the hundreds of passionate advocates from overseas, some of whom are joining us in the overflow room as well, who couldn’t make it into this auditorium, welcome to the United States of America as well. I’m honored to kick off the second ministerial.
Ambassador Brownback, thank you so much for putting it together. Thank you for the kind words. It’s not incongruent to be both a tank commander and a Sunday school teacher. (Laughter.) I’ll get to that in a moment.
Look, we’ve invited more than 100 foreign delegations, more than 1,000 representatives here. And I want to just be here as we kick this off today for a moment to say my personal welcome. I’ll speak to you more throughout your time here.
We’ve got folks from civil society and from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Falun Gong, and other secular backgrounds. We welcome you all. You all traveled from far corners, distant places around the world.
Later this week, we’ll be joined by the Vice President and other distinguished guests. They all appreciate you coming here together to work with us on this important mission.
I want to thank everyone here who has committed a part of their life to helping those who are persecuted and to defending the inalienable right to practice one’s religion and follow their conscience and to take care of their soul. Thank you all for that.
As some of you know, I just launched a commission – the Commission on Unalienable Rights – to ground our understanding of human rights, rights like religious freedom, in our nation’s founding principles here in the United States. I hope that this ministerial will inform that discussion.
And despite our many differences, everyone here agrees on the need for religious pluralism.
And we all agree that fighting so that each person is free to believe, free to assemble, and to teach the tenets of his or her own faith is not optional – indeed, it is a moral imperative that this be permitted.
All people from every place on the globe must be permitted to practice their faith openly – in their homes, in their places of worship, in the public square – and believe what they want to believe.
This week, we need input from all of you on how we can best advance that religious freedom.
In closing, I want you to know that America’s commitment to religious freedom will never waver. We stand with you and for you in each stage of this fight.
Thank you again for being here. I look forward to seeing many of you in the hours and days ahead. Thank you, Ambassador Brownback, for bringing us all together. Good luck. Have a great visit. (Applause.)