RFI Updates

RFI Conference Commemorates the 20th Anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act

Twenty years ago, the 105th Congress passed the landscape-changing International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA). The Law established within the State Department an Office of International Religious Freedom, created the position of Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom as the principal diplomat to advance religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy, and established the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Today, the mechanisms created by that bill continue to shape U.S. foreign policy objectives promoting religious freedom for all people in all nations.

On November 9th, over 250 scholars and advocates of religious freedom, some of whom have suffered persecution for their faith, gathered in Washington, D.C. for a day-long conference to commemorate the 20th anniversary of IRFA.

Senate Testimony: The Global Crisis of Religious Freedom: the Stakes for America and the World

President of the Religious Freedom Institute, Thomas Farr, testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on The Constitution at a hearing entitled: Threats to Religious Liberty Around the World

Dr. Farr’s testimony concluded with a reminder of what is at stake:

Just as we seek to advance religious freedom with our diplomacy in places where government coercion of religious communities is triggering a humanitarian disaster and a grave strategic danger to our national interests, so too must we recognize the danger of government coercion within our own society. We must not forget that America was founded on religious liberty. Our founders firmly believed that without it, our great experiment in democracy would fail.

That is because the first freedom was, and is, a protection for all of us. Not just for Christians, Jews, or Muslims, and not just for religious people. Religious freedom benefits America. If we are not free to believe and to live our lives in accord with our deepest convictions about ultimate truth, then the consequences go far beyond the fate of any one religious group or any one nation.

Without religious freedom in full for everyone, none of us can be truly free.

Thomas Farr President, Religious Freedom Institute

Thomas Farr
President, Religious Freedom Institute

Read his full testimony here: The Global Crisis of Religious Freedom: the Stakes for America and the World

Joining Dr. Farr as witnesses at the hearing are Dr. Bob Fu, President, ChinaAid and Ms. Amanda Tyler, Executive Director, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

The video of the hearing and full text of witness testimony is available here: Threats to Religious Liberty Around the World

Tom Farr Congressional Testimony: The Assault on Religion in China and What To Do About It

The current assault on religion in China under President Xi Jinping is the most comprehensive attempt to manipulate and control religious communities since the Cultural Revolution. Xi’s policy should be seen as a particularly troubling aspect of the global crisis in religious freedom, one in which over three-quarters of the world’s people live in nations where religion is highly, or very highly, restricted. China is one of those nations. - Thomas Farr, President, Religious Freedom Institute

As Dr. Farr makes clear in his testimony, the situation is dire for China’s Muslim Uighers, Tibetan Budhhists, and Christians both Catholic and Protestant. Xi’s policy presents a major challenge to U.S. international religious freedom policy, which has to date had little impact in China. It is time to try a different approach.

RFI Kicks Off NextGen Summer Series with Discussion on Religious Freedom and International Development

RFI Kicks Off NextGen Summer Series with  Discussion on Religious Freedom and International Development

On Wednesday, June 13, the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) kicked off its NextGen Summer Speaker Series with an inaugural talk on “Humanitarian Aid, International Development, and Religious Freedom.” Keynote speaker Dr. Kent Hill, Executive Director of RFI, spoke on the importance of religious freedom in international development, drawing from his experience as Senior Vice President of World Vision and eight years as Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).