Giving Compass' Take:

• Lela Gilbert unpacks reported progress and bad news from the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

• How can funders best work to ensure and advance religious freedom? 

• Learn about declining religious liberty in China

The U.S. Department of State hosted some 1,000 international visitors, legislators, religious freedom advocates and activists in Washington, D.C at the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The event was an unprecedented accomplishment – bringing together representatives from some 100 countries and dozens of faith groups.

Secretary Pompeo emphasized that 80 percent of the world’s population lives under religious restrictions. More than a few speakers and attendees described, formally or informally, the challenges they and many others face because of their religious beliefs and practices.

There were a number of hopeful messages interwoven throughout the course of the Ministerial – glad tidings about a number of detained people of faith who have been set free from captivity in recent months. In fact, 27 such survivors met with President Donald Trump at the White House on July 17.

But there was also more than enough bad news to go around.

The first three speakers at the Ministerial were survivors of recent terrorist attacks that snuffed out hundreds of lives and devastated worshippers at three different and far-flung locations.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, from the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 worshippers were shot dead in October 2018, spoke of the importance of removing the word “hate” from our vocabulary. “Emotional language leads to emotional responses – violence, such as the murder of 11 Jews in my synagogue,” he said.

The second speaker, Farid Ahmed, survived the March 2019 terror attack at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Along with a related shooting at the nearby Linwood Islamic Center, 51 people were killed and 41 injured. Confined to a wheelchair and deeply devoted to his Muslim faith, during the attack, Ahmed saw his wife die. Nonetheless, he said, “I don’t want to have a heart that is boiling like a volcano. A volcano has anger, fury, rage; it doesn’t have peace…”

The third Ministerial speaker, Yamini Ravindran from Sri Lanka, described the horrendous Easter Sunday massacres in her country, during which 259 people were killed and at least 500 injured. Ravindran introduced what for some victims has become a motto: “Do not be afraid to forgive,” she challenged her audience.

Read the full article about U.S. religious freedom summit by Lela Gilbert at Hudson Institute.