Catholic World Report

Charter ahead of international summit affirms religious freedom “for Everyone, Everywhere, All the Time”

Alejandro Bermudez   By Alejandro Bermudez for CNA

Ahead of the International Religious Freedom Summit 2021 (IRF Summit), co-chairs Samuel Brownback and Katrina Lantos Swett, along with the Summit’s over 70 partner organizations around the world, have issued a Charter of Religious Freedom, calling for the protection of the universal human rights of religion and conscience “for Everyone, Everywhere, All the Time.”

The International Summit on Religious Freedom will bring together a broad international coalition in favor of religious liberty for a three day in person event with a virtual option for participation.

The Summit “will connect resources and advocates interested in religious freedom and highlight the personal testimonies of victims of religious persecutions and restrictions on religious freedom,” the organizers explain.

The charter states that “the denial of religious freedom to any person is to deny his or her right to live a fully human life and to flourish as a human being” and that “the achievement by nations of religious freedom for all their citizens and religious communities, protected in law and valued by culture, would dramatically increase international justice, stability, and peace.”

It also states that “the defense of religious freedom transcends partisanship and politics, and the protection of conscience serves as a fundamental cornerstone for the flourishing of just, free societies.”

The Charter therefore declares:

  • That every government, every religious community, and every political and civil society organization in the world should strive toward the goal of achieving freedom of religion and conscience, for everyone, everywhere – protected in law and valued by culture.
  • That religious freedom should be understood as three interconnected levels of rights:
  • The right of every human being freely to believe in religious truths, or not to believe, uncoerced by any human authority, especially the state with its extraordinary powers.
  • The right to join with others in a religious community, which also possesses religious freedom…” and “the rights of believers and of religious communities to live and act peacefully, within civil and political society, in accord with their religious beliefs.”
  • That all people of good will, including leaders of international organizations, nations, religions, civil society institutions, media organizations, policy and political entities, should begin now to adopt practical steps toward the goal of achieving religious freedom for everyone, everywhere.

The Summit’s honorary Chairmanship is shared by both Democratic and Republican senators and congressmen, and the list of speakers includes a vast array of religious leaders, activists and officials from government and non-government organizations related to religious freedom.

Among the speakers are Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Catholic Archbishop of New York; Imam Mohamed Magid of All Dulles Area Muslim Society; Wai Wai Nu, Founder of Women’s Peace Network; Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom; Ewelina Ochab, Co-Founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response; Tristan Azbej,  State Secretary for the Aid of Persecuted Christians; Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London; Tursunay Ziyawudun, Voice for Uyghur Women; Ben Rogers, Executive & Founder, Hong Kong Watch; Archbishop Bashar Warda, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil; Fawza al-Yusuf,  Co-Chair of the Democratic Union Party North East Syria; Nasrin Rasho, Human Rights Activist with Yazidi Survivors Network; Chen Guangcheng, Chinese Civil Rights Activist; Irene Weiss, Holocaust Survivor; and Tracy Sabol, EWTN News Nightly Lead Anchor; among others.

Greetings from the Dalai Lama are expected during the opening session.

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