New Release: Homo Religiosus? Co-Edited by Timothy Shah

New Release: Homo Religiosus? Co-Edited by Timothy Shah

Timothy Shah, Director of the Religious Freedom Institute's South and Southeast Asia Action Team has released a new co-edited book: Homo Religiosus: Exploring the Roots of Religion and Religious Freedom in Human Experience (Cambridge University Press, 2018).

The book explores the question of whether religion is natural to human beings. Despite a whole host of disagreement in the book, all of the contributors share the view that religious freedom and religion is important to human beings and societies and there is good reason to ensure its protection. 

Innovative Approaches to Promoting Religious Freedom in the Middle East and Beyond

The Religious Freedom Institute is taking innovative steps to help increase support for religious freedom within Muslim communities in the United States and abroad. This month, we launched our fifth Action Team—the Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team—to do just that. Among other benefits, this Action Team will accelerate our work with Islamic scholars and leaders to explore sources of support for religious freedom from within the traditions of Islam. 

The Importance of Free Exercise to American Democracy

I spoke recently at an Army Chaplains’ Religious Leaders Symposium on our nation’s revolutionary understanding of religion, and of religious freedom. I contended that this understanding, which has served our nation so well since the founding, is under threat, and that all Americans – of whatever religion or none – should defend it. 

My argument centered around the meaning and reach of the religious liberty protections in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

RFI Interview: Dr. Andrew Bennett, Former Canadian Ambassador for Religious Freedom and New Religious Freedom Institute Senior Fellow

Former Canadian Ambassador Andrew Bennett has joined the Religious Freedom Institute as a Senior Fellow with RFI’s International Religious Freedom Policy Action Team and North America Action Team. From 2013 to 2016, Ambassador Bennett served as Canada’s first Ambassador for Religious Freedom and head of Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom.

We asked Dr. Bennett a few questions, including about his vision for his work with the Religious Freedom Institute and his passion for advancing religious freedom for all people.

Roman Colosseum Painted in Red in Solidarity with World’s Persecuted Christians

For the first time in its nearly 2000-year history, the Roman Colosseum was illuminated in red—along with churches in Syria, Iraq, and Portugal—in a display of solidarity with persecuted Christians around the globe. The symbolic initiative at the end of February was sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity that describes its mission as providing pastoral and humanitarian assistance to persecuted Christians throughout the world.

To American Catholics: Under Caesar’s Sword Is the Solution to Not Doing Enough About Persecuted Christians

In a piece at Crux, Journalist John Allen discusses a new survey conducted by Aid to the Church in Need on a topic of great interest here at Arc of the Universe, the persecution of Christians around the world. The survey assesses the attitudes of American Catholics towards this persecution and shows that they are aware of it but that they don’t think bishops are doing enough to address it.

Integrating Religious Freedom into the U.S. National Security Strategy

Integrating Religious Freedom into the U.S. National Security Strategy

The Trump administration released its first National Security Strategy (NSS) report at the end of last year. Unlike those of the previous administration, this National Security Strategy identifies the protection and promotion of religious freedom and religious minorities as a strategic priority of the United States.

But at present the NSS demonstrates only the Trump administration’s rhetorical support for the place of religious freedom in U.S. national security strategy. It remains to be seen whether this rhetorical commitment will translate into foreign policy directives and outcomes. The administration’s recent proposals to reduce the State Department’s operating budget suggest a general lack of emphasis on diplomacy, as opposed to military power.

Ispahani: Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws Persecute the Weakest of the Weak

Ispahani: Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws Persecute the Weakest of the Weak

In an opinion piece for CNN, RFI Senior Fellow and former Pakistani Parliamentarian, Farahnaz Ispahani, argues that Pakistan’s abuse of blasphemy laws disproportionately harms the most vulnerable in Pakistani society, such as Asia Bibi, and imperils those who would chose to stand up for them, like Rashid Rehman, a human rights lawyer murdered in 2014.

Indonesian Muslims Protest Against Islamist Extremism: The Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam

Indonesian Muslims Protest Against Islamist Extremism: The Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam

“If Muslims reject extremism, why don’t they say so?” This is a common refrain expressed by non‑Muslims in the West.

The reality is that Muslims often do express their rejection of extremism. But those protests rarely attract much attention. Many in the West are not aware that most of the victims of Islamist extremism and terrorism are Muslims themselves, many of them deliberately targeted by the terrorists. Increasingly, Middle Eastern Muslims are concluding that Islamist terrorism is threatening their own societies and the well-being of Islam itself.

Asma Jahangir (1952-2018): Pakistan's Lion-Hearted Human Rights Champion

Asma Jahangir (1952-2018): Pakistan's Lion-Hearted Human Rights Champion

When Asma Jahangir died in Lahore on February 11, Pakistan and the international human rights community lost a great champion of justice and freedom. Asma stood for and by the side of Pakistan's religious minorities as no one had ever done before. As a lawyer and a human rights activist, she was the greatest opponent of Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which are the harshest in the world.

Asma founded the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and used it relentlessly to bring attention to the rights of Pakistan’s oppressed ethnic and religious minorities, women, children, and political dissidents.

Religious Freedom Ambassador Sam Brownback's Record of Bipartisanship in Support of Human Rights

Religious Freedom Ambassador Sam Brownback's Record of Bipartisanship in Support of Human Rights

Former U.S. Senator and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is the State Department’s new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.  Brownback has an extensive track record of working in a bipartisan manner to promote religious freedom and other human rights for people around the globe. He also possesses more extensive government experience than any other international religious freedom ambassador to date. Indeed, Brownback is unusually qualified to propel religious freedom into the mainstream of U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy.

During his sixteen years as a Congressman and U.S. Senator, Brownback was a leading advocate for international religious freedom. He was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA). With his help, the Senate passed the act unanimously.  IRFA passed the House with similarly overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. 

Religious Intolerance, Ethnic Cleansing and Crimes Against Humanity in Burma

Religious Intolerance, Ethnic Cleansing and Crimes Against Humanity in Burma

Burma’s latest wave of religious and ethnic cleansing against its Muslim Rohingya community is, unfortunately, indicative of that nation’s broader religious freedom and human rights challenges.  Indeed, Burma’s religious and ethnic minority communities have known little peace for over a half century.

The latest crisis escalated in August 2017 and has led to the destruction of hundreds of villages and the murder and rape of thousands.  Many around the world have been appalled at these acts as the persecution has also forced the displacement of over 600,000 people, most of whom have fled across the border into Bangladesh.

China's Uighurs and Technology-Enhanced Totalitarianism

China's Uighurs and Technology-Enhanced Totalitarianism

This new video report from the Wall Street Journal provides exclusive interviews and rare images documenting the severe persecution of Uighur Muslims by China’s communist government.  Most of China’s Uighurs live in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.  In Xinjiang, the government has woven state-of-the-art technology in with its tried-and-true methods of totalitarian oppression.

Based in part on a massively intrusive census of residents’ personal information, the communist regime has created a system that assigns a national security score to every individual and family.  It sends those it scores as “unsafe” to prison-like “study centers” for political indoctrination and re-education.