Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, who hosted the State Department’s first ministerial on advancing religious freedom this week in Washington, D.C., commended the commitments made by leaders around the world to do more to protect religious freedom.
“[It’s the] first time this has ever been done and I think we hit a vein,” he said at an event on Friday on Capitol Hill hosted by the Committee For Responsible Foreign Policy. “Very good commitments here.”
More than 80 foreign delegations and religious leaders who work with civil society groups attended the ministerial.
Brownback said for a long time that governments have not known how to deal with religion. They have seen religion as a source of problems, and hope it just goes away. They ask themselves, “What do I do here,” he said.
“A simple answer – religious freedom – you let everyone be free,” he told attendees. “Faith is a good thing.”
The event came at the end of a three-day conference hosted by the State Department to advocate for religious freedom around the world and attended by officials, lawmakers, scholars, humanitarian experts, and other stakeholders.
Brownback said he hoped to do more such conferences to keep the momentum going.
“Let’s do one of these in Indonesia or Bahrain or Denmark or Argentina. Lets have civil society groups and be part of that,” he said.
He acknowledged that efforts to promote religious freedom would be different in each country. However, he said it is not about promoting any one religion — it is protecting the right to religious freedom.
“It’s about freedom [and] protecting the right to religious freedom. You don’t pick a winner or loser.”
He said there was a need for more members of the foreign policy establishment to buy into the notion of religious freedom and said he urged his staff not to take a week off after the conference.
“We busted through the gate, busted the barrier down, but now you got to keep running,” he said. “We’re at a moment that the iron curtain comes down.”