One of the justifiable worries when former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback became U.S. ambassador at large for religious freedom in the U.S. State Department was that he would focus his attention almost solely on persecution of Christians around the world.
And that "around the world" also might include phony charges of religious persecution of Christians in the U.S. Brownback was, after all, a terribly failed governor, and there was concern that he might not get this new job right, either.
His ambassadorship still is a work in progress, but if the International Religious Freedom Roundtable that starts tomorrow in Washington is any indication, Brownback is looking at a wide range of religious persecution across the globe and not just at Christians (though, for sure, there is a lot of persecution of Christians in many countries). This Reuters story will add some details about that conference.
As that story notes, "Speakers will include Nobel laureate Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman held as a sex slave by Islamic State militants; and American evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson, who was freed after two years of detention in Turkey. Attendees will include Rohingya Muslim representatives who have fled a campaign by Myanmar’s military against them."
The list of religious persecutors around the globe is long, indeed, this 234-page annual report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) shows.
As the report notes, ". . .the enduring story of the last 20 years is. . .the story of people who wish to live their lives as their conscience leads, who dream of raising their children so that they can make their own choice about what to believe or not believe freely and openly. Yet for some, the last 20 years have been a chronicle of a different kind, spanning a generation of cruel and unrelenting treatment because of their beliefs."
Religious liberty is not just an American value rooted in our Constitution. It's a foundational human value. And it should have advocates in every country. I'm glad the U.S. State Department and the USCIRF continue to highlight evidence of religious persecution. And I'm especially glad that under Brownback the focus has included more than suffering Christians.
Let's follow the conference this week and follow how Brownback's office performs moving forward so that all persecuted religious people around the world feel they have a partner and advocate in Washington.
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ADDING CATHOLIC WOMEN WHERE THEY'RE NEEDED
Pope Francis has appointed some women to a group that oversees Catholic religious orders, and he's getting praise for his actions. This is part of what it means when critics say the church needs to make structural changes to respond to the church's ongoing sexual abuse crisis. A church run only by males, whose instincts are to protect the institution, not the victims, can find only trouble.