The following post is sponsored by The Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy (CRFP).
Religious liberty advocates from across the country and around the globe gathered in Washington, DC, this week for the U.S. State Department’s first-ever ministerial on religious freedom.
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback helped spearhead the effort and is now slated to speak at another event: “The Impact of War on Religious Freedom” conference, which is being held in conjunction with the State Department’s three-day push to advance the plight of persecuted faith groups.
Hosted by The Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy, the conference will highlight the impact of war on religious liberty around the world.
“The effects of war on religious freedom is a complex but important subject,” says Dr. Tom Farr, president of Religious Freedom Institute and a panelist for Friday’s event. “Historically, defensive wars have sometimes been necessary in order to protect religious and other freedoms. World War II falls into that category. Had the Allies not succeeded, freedom would have been extinguished.”
“On the other hand, offensive wars fought with the express goal of achieving religious freedom as part of democracy, such as the invasion of Afghanistan, are by their nature difficult to ‘win.’ Even if a dictator is overthrown, or an extremist group like the Taliban is ousted – necessary first steps – the institutions of freedom are difficult to impose from without,” Farr continued, adding that he hoped to muse about these issues during the conference.
Religious persecution – particularly against Christians, but increasingly against Muslims and Buddhists in China and Yazidis in territories controlled by the Islamic State – has reached unprecedented levels worldwide.
Studies by the U.S. State Department and the Pew Research Center this year found an increase in the regions of the world that have passed laws hindering religious freedom, particularly laws against practicing any religion in atheist states and laws against blasphemy in Islamic states.
War has exacerbated religious persecution most in the Middle East and Africa. In South Sudan, for example, ongoing civil war has created instability and endangered the presence of churches previously considered the anchors of civil society. In Syria, the seven-year-old civil war has resulted in widespread religion-based attacks. The Christian population of Syria has been largely decimated by ongoing attacks from the Islamic State and al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel groups, while Syrian Sunni Arab populations have faced relentless attack from Syrian government forces. Iraq, one of the cradles of Christian civilization, has lost up to 90 percent of its Christian population to attacks from the Islamic State, Iran-backed Shiite militias, and other jihadist groups.
Brownback, a former Republican Kansas governor and U.S. senator, has worked for decades on the issue of religious liberty in multiple countries. During his time in Congress, Brownback was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 which made the promotion of religious freedom part of America’s foreign policy.
Friday’s conference will consist of two panels and featured experts. One panel will look at the historical impact of war on religious liberty; another will look at the impact of current conflicts on religious freedom.
Panel I: The Impact of War on Religious Freedom in Past Conflicts
- Dr. Tom Farr – president of Religious Freedom Institute, a non-profit organization that works to advance religious freedom worldwide
- Dr. Daniel Mark – assistant professor of political science at Villanova University
- Pastor J. Heinrich Arnold
- Moderator: Rod Dreher, senior editor at The American Conservative
Panel II: The Impact of Current Wars on Religious Freedom
- Kristina Arriaga –renowned religious liberty expert who serves on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom
- John L. Allen Jr – editor of Crux, an independent Catholic news site
- Steve Gumaer – founder and president of Partners Relief & Development, an international Christian aid organization
- Moderator: Dr. Peter Petkoff, senior law lecturer at the Brunel Law School and director of the Religion, Law and International Relations Programme at Regent’s Park College, Oxford.
Breitbart News will post a full-length video of the conference following the event.
Below are the event speaker biographies.
The Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy is a 501(c)(4) organization with the mission of pursuing a more restrained foreign policy that adheres to the Constitution. The organization aims to increase awareness of Congress’ Article I responsibility to oversee war. For more information on CRFP, please visit http://responsibleforeignpolicy.org.