Historic Second Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom

Office of International Religious Freedom
July 16, 2019

The protection of religious freedom is central to the Trump administration’s foreign policy, and protecting this human right is an essential part of who we are as Americans.” – U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, October 27, 2018

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 unalienable human right of religious freedom.

The Trump Administration prioritizes the protection of the unalienable right of religious freedom

  • The Trump Administration champions the protection of unalienable rights like religious freedom, grounded in our nation’s founding principles.
  • Religious freedom is a universal human right, and key to the protection of other unalienable rights, including freedom of speech and assembly.
  • Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback are strong, public advocates for religious freedom.
  • In February, Secretary Pompeo swore in Elan Carr as the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
  • Every year, the State Department releases the International Religious Freedom report, which describes the status of religious freedom around the world.
  • Secretary Pompeo recently announced the establishment of the Commission on Unalienable Rights, to furnish advice for the promotion of individual liberty, human equality, and democracy through U.S. foreign policy.

80 percent of people live in a religiously restricted environment. The United States is leading. Partners are answering the call.

  • The International Religious Freedom Fund, established at last year’s Ministerial, now provides emergency assistance to victims of religiously motivated discrimination and abuse around the world, thanks to the generosity of several nations, and the United States.
  • After Secretary Pompeo’s call to action at last year’s Ministerial, partner governments hosted regional conferences on religious freedom:
  • In November 2018, the United States cosponsored a conference with the United Kingdom at Wilton Park on the delivery of humanitarian and development aid to members of religious minority groups in conflict and crisis settings.
  • In February 2019, the United Arab Emirates hosted a conference to discuss the challenge of promoting interfaith understanding and diversity, as well as how to foster human rights, religious freedom, and combat violent extremism.
  • In March 2019, Taiwan hosted an event to explore ways civil society actors and religious leaders can use their unique positions to engage government and further religious freedom.
  • Other governments, including MoroccoAlbania, and Colombia have committed to hosting religious freedom-focused conferences in the coming months.
  • Secretary Pompeo’s Potomac Plan of Action unveiled at last year’s ministerial, called for a new day of global remembrance for victims of religious persecution and a recommitment for action. Poland took the initiative, and led the effort at the United Nations General Assembly to establish August 22nd as the day of remembrance.
  • Ambassador Sam Brownback encouraged governments to establish new ambassadorships focused on religious freedom. Last year, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Mongolia created special religious freedom ambassadors, and this year, Taiwan followed.
  • Ambassador Brownback called for the establishment of international religious freedom roundtables around the world, empowering civil society to organize around the principle that every person has a right to their religious beliefs. Roundtables and similar networks currently exist in:
  • Abuja, Bogota, Brussels (EU), Geneva (UN), Khartoum, Kiev, New York (UN), Seoul, Taipei, and Turin. We expect more roundtables to launch soon in Bucharest, Budapest, Erbil, Jakarta, London, Mexico City, Paris, and Ulaanbaatar.

Multilateralism that works

  • 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.
  • 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.