The advancement of religious liberty across the globe got a major lifeline this week after the U. S. State Department on Tuesday kicked off the Ministerial on Religious Freedom.
Analysts said one of the most, if not the most, amazing thing about the conference is that it's happening at all.
Never before has there been a gathering of so many senior-ranking officials and their delegations, plus activists and NGO's, for the purpose of religious freedom.
Ambassador Sam Brownback, America's ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, kicked off the ministerial Tuesday morning.
“Religious freedom really, truly is for everyone. It's a right given by God and is a beautiful part of our human dignity," Brownback said.
It is a testament to the fact that the U.S. considers it a high priority — but also that religious freedoms around the world are eroding and more and more countries are looking for solutions.
There are a list of religious persecution hotspots around the globe. They include Myanmar and the genocide of Rohingya Muslims. In Nigeria, violent religious divisions have ravaged the country, and hundreds have been killed in the last few weeks alone.
And in Turkey, Americans are outraged over the detention of U.S. Pastor Matthew Brunson, who is now on trial for what officials say are trumped up charges.
"The lack of religious freedom anywhere is a threat to peace, prosperity and stability everywhere,” Brownback said during his opening remarks to delegates. “The right to freedom of religious and the ability to live according to the dictates of your own soul is under attack in the world. This must change and that's why you're here."...
Three things are expected to be accomplished here during the three-day conference. One, that governments will hear of personal stories of persecution, like that of Jamie Powell, whose husband, the Rev. John Cao, was arrested by Chinese authorities and sentenced to seven years in prison.
"It appears now John was set-up for arrest because of his faith-driven work and accused of a fabricated crime, facilitating organized border crossing — a charge that is usually given to human traffickers," Powell said.
Two, that they will hear how to access funds available to help them aid the persecuted.
And three, which the State Department considers a top issue, that government officials understand the strong link between the promotion of religious freedom and the lessening of terrorism and the increase of stability in their countries..
The ministerial comes to a climax on Thursday when Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will both speak.