The first-ever International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit took place from July 13-15 in Washington, DC. There were over 1,200 participants representing faith groups and NGOs from all over the world, making the Summit the largest-ever civil society-initiated gathering focused on IRF.
IGE was invited to share its experience and views in a number of Summit events. IGE VP of Global Operations James Chen spoke on a panel on “The Role of Philanthropy in IRF” and shared about how IGE is advancing covenantal pluralism in countries around the world. Myanmar Program Officer Seng Mai Aung was featured in a session on “Challenges to Religious Freedom in Southeast Asia” and talked about the role and impact of religious communities amidst the coup in Myanmar.
In addition, the Summit hosted a MOU signing ceremony between IGE Senior Fellow for Central Asia Wade Kusack and Kazakhstan’s Committee of Religious Affairs chairman Yerzhan Nukezhanov to establish religious freedom roundtables throughout the country.
IGE Senior Fellow Knox Thames moderated a panel on “Legal Structures of Persecution and Religious Discrimination.” IGE board member and chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Nadine Maenza was invited to speak on multiple panels: “Digitizing Religious Persecution on a Global Scale,” “Taiwan: A Leading Voice for Religious Freedom,” and “The Rising Tide of Religious Nationalism.” Finally, IGE board of advisor member Angela Wu Howard spoke on a panel on “The Impact of War on Religious Freedom.”
The IRF Summit was co-chaired by Sam Brownback, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from 2018-2021, and Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights. The Summit also featured remarks from Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and several members of Congress including Chris Coons, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, James Lankford, Henry Cuellar, Ro Khanna, Nancy Pelosi, and Chris Smith.