Farr spoke candidly on the “Religion Avoidance Syndrome” among diplomats and the lack of religious understanding in the foreign service infrastructure. Global religious freedom is inextricable from economic and political stability, as well as U.S. national security.
With a fervor that’s expected from the “Godfather of the religious freedom movement,” Congressman Wolf lamented the silence of U.S. faith leaders, as well as bureaucratic inefficacy. He called for the U.S. to make full use of its foreign policy toolkit in battling religious persecution. “South African apartheid would’ve never fallen without sanctions,” he said.
Looking forward, Farr emphasized the importance of recognizing the place of religious freedom in our own history. In order to fight for religious freedom abroad, we need to revisit our own values and understand why it’s important to Americans living in America. And if we can’t do it, in a country defined by religious freedom, who can?
The final panel was moderated by RFI Executive Director Kent Hill. It featured Emilie Kao, Director of the Devos Center for Religion and Society at the Heritage Foundation, Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation, and Allen Hertzke, David Ross Boyd Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma.
Emilie Kao reflected on the birth of the movement 20 years ago; “we’ve come a long way but the challenges are not receding.” She highlighted the twofold obstacle facing religious freedom: aggressive secularism (exemplified by the French hijab ban) as well as religious extremism (such as Buddhist extremists in Myanmar, ISIS, and Indian Hindu extremism).
Indeed, Dr. Hertzke articulated the irony of this moment in history. Where we have an unprecedented slew of data on the correlation between religious freedom and economic flourishing, peace, and democracy yet religious freedom is increasingly under attack.