United States Hosts First-Ever Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom

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Discussants at a panel discussion during the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on July 24, 2018.
Discussants at a panel discussion during the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on July 24, 2018.

United States Hosts First-Ever Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom

On July 24-26, Secretary Pompeo hosted the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the Department of State. The Ministerial convened leaders from around the world to discuss the challenges facing religious freedom, identify concrete means to address persecution of and discrimination against religious groups, and promote greater respect for religious liberty for all. 

On July 26, Vice President Mike Pence delivered keynote remarks at the Ministerial underscoring the importance of international religious freedom and its role in American foreign policy.  The Vice President said, "The right to believe or not believe is the most fundamental of freedoms. When religious freedom is denied or destroyed, we know that other freedoms are imperiled. That’s why the United States stands for religious freedom yesterday, today and always."

Representatives of International Organizations as well as from over 80 countries who have a demonstrated record for advancing religious freedom, and a commitment to promoting Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, attended the Ministerial. Survivors or close relatives of those who suffered persecution due to their religious beliefs shared their stories.

At the Ministerial, delegations announced actions to protect and promote freedom of religion or belief and committed to host regional follow-up conferences on the topic of religious freedom. The Vice President announced the establishment of the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program to "ensure that religious freedom and religious pluralism prosper across the Middle East as well."  

Secretaty Pompeo announced  the State Department will host a three-day accelerator workshop called Boldline to support and scale innovative public-private partnerships that promote and defend religious freedom around the world in October 2018. 

He also announced the release of the Potomac Declaration and the Potomac Plan of Action. The Secretary said, "These documents reassert the United States’ unwavering commitment to promoting and defending religious freedom. They recommend concrete ways the international community and governments can do more to protect religious freedom and vulnerable religious communities."

The International Religious Freedom Ministerial was the first-ever of its kind. It convened more than 80 delegations, including dozens of minister-level representatives from around the world. This Ministerial demonstrates the Trump Administration's unwavering commitment to religious freedom and its recognition that religious freedom is a fundamental American liberty. As Secretary Pompeo emphasized in his remarks, "When religious freedom flourishes, a country flourishes."

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.

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Today, the United States Senate confirmed Philip Goldberg, Charge d'Affaires ad interim at the United States Embassy in Cuba, David Hale, United States Ambassador to Pakistan, Michele Sison, United States Ambassador to Haiti, and Daniel Smith, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, as Career Ambassadors. According to the Foreign Service Act of 1980, the President is empowered with the advice and consent of the Senate to confer the personal rank of Career Ambassador upon a career member of the Senior Foreign Service in recognition of especially distinguished service over a sustained period. There have only been 59 Career Ambassadors confirmed prior to 2018. In recognition of this honor, we congratulate the Ambassadors and invite you to learn more about them. Philip Goldberg