USA (MNN) – This week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially convened the 2nd Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which wraps up tomorrow.
The summit brings together 1,000 foreign ministers, religious leaders, and others from 115 nations, explains Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry. “They’re getting together and talking about the kinds of laws, the kinds of situations, so that the government leaders and seek Department officials understand better what’s happening around the world, and how religious liberty is being restricted.”
The global impact of religious freedom
It comes at a time when the global refugee crisis remains at an all-time high and when attention is on the persecution of minority religious groups around the world. Part of what these leaders are hoping to do is work through preventative solutions. In his opening remarks, Mr. Pompeo laid the foundation for the meetings when he said, “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.”
Curry agrees. When governments do not allow that freedom, he says, “There are so many crises around the world which began with the striking point being religious intolerance, whether that’s against the weaker Muslims in China, against Christians in India, (and around the world) or other places as well.”
In an international gathering of this kind, some faces and voices are notably absent. Last year, several countries whose religious-rights records have become increasingly problematic were left off the invite list. Some of those same countries are Countries of Particular Concern on the State Department’s International Freedom Report. It means religious freedom issues are no longer a low priority.
The connection between stability and freedom
Curry says religious intolerance reveals a pattern for a country’s future stability. “I can look around the world and say, ‘here’s where the next problem is going to erupt because this is where you’ve let the violence associated with religious intolerance grow.’ Where you have these kinds of situations, you’re going to have problems in the future.”
Underscoring his point, he cited another situation. “Religious intolerance is really the nexus of so many crises around the world. When you look at ISIS five years ago, it started as jihadist rebels attacking churches in the north of Iraq. When there was no response, they built in strength and took over an entire region.”
The point of advocacy
The ministerial’s purpose: send a strong message that the United States is concerned about religious freedom, not as an American right, but as a human right. To that end, “I think the State Department really is focusing on the right thing; it’s trying to bring about an understanding and trying to figure out what we can do to make religious freedom something that is is a is a quality that is honored around the world.”
Curry warns “It’s happening again, right now in northern Nigeria, where there’s been genocide against Christians. These things start as small outcrops of religious intolerance, and then blow up into massive crises that cost the world in human terms, and also, in economic terms?”
Without religious freedom, Open Doors USA would face even more significant challenges to its mission:
We stake our lives in Jesus’ Great Commission. We take this command so seriously that we still take risks to this day to get copies of the Gospel into hostile areas. We do this because we love God. We are inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus who often went out of his way to spend time being present with vulnerable people on the margins of society.
Headline image is a screen capture courtesy of US Department of State