By US Department of State – 

This week the U.S. Department of State hosted the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. For three days we convened religious leaders, rights advocates, members of civil society, government officials, and representatives of international organizations from around the world to discuss the challenges facing religious freedom, identify concrete means to address persecution of and discrimination against religious groups, and promote greater respect for religious freedom for all. Survivors or close relatives of those who suffered persecution due to their religious beliefs also shared their stories, powerfully declaring that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right.

As Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in his op-ed in USA Today, “Countries that champion individual freedoms are often the most secure, economically vibrant, and prosperous in the world. Religious freedom is an indispensable building block of free societies.” The final day of the Ministerial was a day of action, where Secretary Pompeo introduced new initiatives to promote religious pluralism, protect the rights of religious minorities, and promote and defend religious freedom around the world. (Read his full remarks here.)

These initiatives include a new International Visitor Leadership Program to bring those working on the front lines of religious freedom issues from all around the world to the United States; a three-day accelerator workshop called Boldline to support and scale innovative public-private partnerships that promote and defend religious freedom; and commitments from several countries who are willing to host regional follow-up conferences on the topic of religious freedom. At the conclusion of the gathering, the State Department released the Potomac Declaration, a U.S. declaration reaffirming the ideals declared in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Potomac Plan of Action. These documents reassert the United States’ unwavering commitment to promoting and defending religious freedom. They recommend concrete ways the international community and governments can do more to protect religious freedom and vulnerable religious communities.