Middle East Action Team

Nowhere are the threats to religious communities more visible than in the Middle East. The absence of religious freedom and government protections have led to genocide of religious minorities and massive displacement across much of the region. For any lasting peace to be secured on a regional or even local level, religious freedom is crucial. The ability to live together with those of another faith, or even who share a different interpretation of your own is necessary. We are working to address the ideas that are driving violence and strengthen communities to preserve pluralism where it is at risk.

Director: Jeremy Barker
Projects: Under Caesar's Sword


"Under Caesar’s Sword" is a three-year, collaborative global research project that investigates how Christian communities respond when their religious freedom is severely violated. Research will be centered around three core questions:

  • How do Christian communities respond to repression?

  • Why do they choose the responses that they do?

  • What are the results of these responses?

The findings of this research project are disseminated and used to inform advocacy and assistance work on behalf of Christians and other religious minorities across the globe.

The Under Caesar's Sword project is a joint initiative of the Religious Freedom Institute, the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, and the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.

To learn more about the project visit: www.ucs.nd.edu


Director: Jeremy Barker

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Jeremy P. Barker serves as Senior Program Officer and Director of the Middle East Action Team for the Religious Freedom Institute. He assists with the programmatic objectives of both the Middle East and International Religious Freedom Policy Action Teams including research, writing, and advocacy with a particular focus on the Middle East and provides program development and management support for all of RFI’s action teams. He has lived or worked in the Middle East since 2010, including multiple years in Turkey and Northern Iraq. He has worked in rights-based relief, development, and advocacy across the region from Iraq and Turkey to Egypt and Morocco with a particular focus on issues of religious persecution and post-conflict justice and accountability. He holds a B.A. in History and M.A. degrees in Cross-Cultural Studies and International Relations.

Intern: Ryan Zoellner

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Ryan Zoellner is an intern with RFI’s Middle East Action Team. A senior at Colgate University, Ryan is double majoring in Philosophy of Religion and Political Science. He focuses on issues of religion and identity in the Levant region, and his work at RFI revolves around Christian communities in Iraq. Ryan will begin an honors thesis on American foreign policy toward Iraqi Kurdistan in the fall. At Colgate, he writes for the newspaper, is a member of student government, and greek life. In his career, Ryan hopes to advance the importance of religious freedom as an aspect of American national security.

Intern: Daniella Royer

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Daniella Royer works on RFI’s Middle East Action Team and Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with degrees in mathematics and economics and will attend Georgetown Law School as a Global Law Scholar in the fall. Daniella is passionate about exploring the intersections between culture, law, and religion in the United States and around the world, and loves thinking about how to integrate faith into the public square. After law school, she plans to pursue religious liberty law and refugee advocacy. In her free time, you can find her playing piano and violin, discussing theology, and cooking multicultural cuisine.  

Intern: Wilson Reynolds

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Wilson Reynolds is working on RFI’s Middle East Action Team and the Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team. He is passionate about advocacy for interfaith dialogue, having engaged in and led Christian-Muslim fellowship groups through a variety of local religious institutions. A rising third-year undergraduate at Davidson College, he is pursuing a major in Political Science, specializing in international relations theory, and a minor in Middle East Studies. After graduation, he intends to integrate a career in entrepreneurship or government service with his enthusiasm for cross-cultural ministry and religious freedom.