Religious freedom advocates and activists gathered Jan. 30-31 for the annual International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in Washington, D.C. The summit’s speakers included Rashad Hussain, principal advisor to the secretary of state and advisor to the president on matters pertaining to religious freedom; House Speaker Mike Johnson; former Vice President Mike Pence; and a number of experts across a variety of fields, countries and religious backgrounds.
The issue of religious persecution often goes underreported. The IRF Summit, according to the website, seeks to create “a powerful coalition of organizations that operate together for the cause of religious freedom around the world” and “[increase] the public awareness and political strength for the international religious freedom movement.”
The gathering is bipartisan and is not focused on any specific religion or religious group. “This summit hereby declares: That every government, every religious community, and every political and civil society organization in the world should strive toward the goal of achieving freedom of religion and conscience, for everyone, everywhere—protected in law and valued by culture,” the charter states.
Another of the speakers was Aaron Edwards, a British theology professor who was fired for a tweet expressing Biblical teaching on homosexuality. Cases such as his have become increasingly common in North America and Europe in recent years.
Break-out session topics included “Minorities in the Middle East,” “Religious Freedom Violations in Times of War & Conflict,” “Violations in Surveillance States,” “Blasphemy and Apostasy Laws in South Asia” and more. A private screening of raw footage from the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel was shown on Tuesday.
The IRF Summit comes at a time when religious freedom and freedom of speech cases are becoming more frequent in the West, the atrocities of the Israel-Hamas war are still playing out, and levels of international persecution are rising. A large percentage of the world’s inhabitants live in countries with high levels of religious persecution against Christians as well as other religious groups.
Photo: Tayfun Salci / ZUMAPRESS / Newscom