Earlier this month, representing Katartismos Global Advocacy, I led a team of international religious freedom advocates to attend the first annual International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, DC.
Our team, pictured above, was among some 1200 global freedom-lovers who attended the July 13-15 IRF Summit in person at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Our team participated as a Supporting Partner at the Summit under the auspices of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). It is a blessing to be a part of a denomination whose leadership supports the fight for international religious freedom in general and persecuted Christians in particular.
Joining me at the IRF Summit were (from left to right in the photo above) Sharoon S; me; Patricia Streeter; Barbara Nelson; Max Graham; the Rt. Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail; Mark Pritchett; and Jason Jones. Our team effort was supported by the Anglican Persecuted Church Network (New Wineskins Missionary Network); the Jason Jones Show; the Good Shepherd Educational Fund (Juba, South Sudan); Church of the Apostles Anglican Church (Fairfax, VA); and One Tribe: People Building Peace; in addition to ACNA and KGI.
In 2018 and 2019 I participated in the U.S. State Department Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom. The Ministerial was the inspiration of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, former U.S. Senator and former Kansas Governor, Sam Brownback. Those events brought together government officials and civilian organizations devoted to international religious freedom at the U.S. State Department. One of the never-to-be-forgotten moments at the first Ministerial was when we learned that Pastor Andrew Brunson had been released from prison and moved to house arrest the morning after his daughter spoke to us at the Ministerial. It was the first step in what eventually led to his freedom and return to America.
The Ministerial to Advance International Religious was scheduled to move to Poland in 2020. Of course the virus pandemic ended the plans for a large in-person conference in Warsaw. Instead the Polish government oversaw a virtual Ministerial.*
Come 2021, there was a new Administration and Brownback was no longer the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.** He had a vision, though. for an international conference to promote religious freedom “for all people, everywhere, all the time.” In a truly miraculous way, the Summit came together and attracted a sold-out crowd. Brownback was joined by Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, the daughter of the late California Congressman and human rights defender, Tom Lantos, as co-hosts of the Summit.
In my next blog post I will report on the Summit program and personalities, as well as sharing more photos.
*A Ministerial is being planned for this fall by the Government of Brazil, but there are some questions as to whether the United States government will continue as a leader on this issue.
**Officials from the Biden Administration who came to the IRF Summit assured the audience that they would soon announce their nominiee for his replacement. Please pray that the right person would be nominated. It’s better to have no one than the wrong person!