Tim Shah

Timothy Shah: What American History Teaches About Importance of Putting Principles into Practice

While the U.S. has strong principles of religious freedom, and a great diversity of religions have flourished, there have always been struggles in putting principle into practice.

Timothy Shah, Senior Director, Religious Freedom Institute (File Photo)

Timothy Shah, Senior Director, Religious Freedom Institute (File Photo)

Timothy Shah, Senior Director of the Religious Freedom Institute's South and Southeast Asia Action Team, on September 12 delivered a keynote address discussing America's long tradition of religious freedom and religious pluralism with a delegation of senior officials from the Republic of Georgia. 

The delegation was part of a State-Department funded program which brought senior Georgian religious and military officials to the United States to explore Human Rights and Religious Pluralism in the United States. The goal of the program was to examine best practices in promoting interfaith dialogue, as well as to look into how governments, non-governmental organizations, and faith-based groups promote diverse, tolerant, peaceful communities.

In the discussion, Dr. Shah examined the formulation of religious freedom principles such as those enshrined in the First Amendment or expressed in President Washington's letter to the Newport Hebrew Congregation in 1790. He also considered recent trends that demonstrate both growing religious diversity and tensions that have emerged such as anti-Muslim attacks on mosques or hateful rhetoric or anti-Semitic hate crimes. 

The Religious Freedom Institute in its work, both domestically in the United States and in countries around the world, seeks to bridge the gap between principle and practice to promote religious freedom that leads to the flourishing of all.

 

Timothy Shah Addresses Military Leaders on Religious Freedom's Critical Role Against Violent Extremism

Timothy Shah, Senior Director, Religious Freedom Institute (File Photo)

Timothy Shah, Senior Director, Religious Freedom Institute (File Photo)

Timothy Shah, Senior Director of the Religious Freedom Institute's South and Southeast Asia Action Team, delivered a private briefing for military leaders from the Near East and South Asia region on the critical role religious freedom plays in addressing the rising challenges posed by religion-related violence and terrorism.

The Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University convened a seminar September 11-22, 2017 looking at the need to move beyond a "whole of government" approach to security and consider a "whole of society" approach. 

As Dr. Shah made clear in his presentation, drawing on a growing body of research, it is evident that religion-related violence is an increasing source of security concerns. There are two common approaches to this: 1) Greater restrictions on religion or 2) Greater religious freedom. The evidence makes clear that greater restrictions lead to an increase in religion-related violence both domestically and transnationally. 

The best environment for preventing and reducing violent extremism (both secular and religious) is an environment of real religious freedom and tolerance.

Therefore, the best thing religion can do to fight against violent extremism is to fight for religious freedom for everyone, including groups with which we do not agree.
— Timothy Shah, at National Defense University, Sept. 20, 2017

Study and Teach: New Educational Resources from Under Caesar's Sword

"Under Caesar’s Sword" is a three-year, global research project that investigates how minority Christian communities respond to religious persecution. A team of scholars conducted in-depth field research into more than 25 countries where Christians suffer oppression and persecution because of their religious beliefs. 

The fruit of this research is now available in two new educational resources: 

  • We Respond, a seven-session study series for high school students and adult groups, uses reflection questions, stories, and accessible research findings to allow your group to engage thoughtfully with Christians' responses to persecution today. Learn More
     
  • Christians Confronting Persecution, a six-week online course through Notre Dame's STEP program, brings together ministers, educators, and other adults to confront the reality of persecution through the lens of faith. The course features lectures on issues ranging from the meaning of religious freedom, the concept of martyrdom and strategies for response to persecution from Tom Farr, Timothy Shah, Daniel Philpott and Kristi Haas. The six-week course will begin its initial run on September 4. Learn More

Visit the Under Caesar's Sword website to find more information about the project and other resources including the report of findings: In Response to Persecution and documentary film: Under Caesar's Sword

Press Release: Preserving Minorities and the Possibility for Stability in Iraq and Syria

Press Release

Preserving Minorities and the Possibility for Stability in Iraq and Syria

June 07, 2017, Washington, D.C.— In response to ISIS genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other minorities, the House of Representatives yesterday passed unanimously the Iraq and Syria Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390), co-authored by Republican Chris Smith and Democrat Anna Eshoo.

The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) urges the Senate to move this bill, and the President to sign it, immediately. It will ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the victims of genocide whose very survival is at risk. 

Sustaining these minority communities is a critical first step in enabling them to remain in their homelands. If Christians, Yazidis, Shabak, Kakai, Turkomen, Shi’a Muslims and other communities are not preserved in Iraq and Syria, the possibility that pluralism and stability might emerge in the future will be eliminated. A second critical step will be holding accountable those who have sought to destroy these communities.

Last year both the U.S. Congress and the Department of State labeled as “genocide” the actions of ISIS. But U.S. aid has not gone systematically to genocide victims. H.R. 390 directs that humanitarian assistance be provided to those in greatest need, especially genocide survivors. It requires the U.S. to work with the most effective relief organizations, including faith-based entities. It supports criminal investigation into perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Iraq.

RFI President Tom Farr hailed H.R. 390 as legislation that will relieve terrible human suffering while at the same time enhancing the national security of the United States. “HR 390 is an example of American values and American interests converging. Both the Senate and, in turn, the President should seize this opportunity to support both justice and peace in Iraq and Syria.”     

Tim Shah, an RFI Senior Director and Research Professor at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, praised Representatives Smith and Eshoo. “In a country and a Congress so deeply divided, we are gratified at the spirit of unity and non-partisanship demonstrated by these two stalwarts of religious freedom. The people of Iraq and Syria, as well as the American people, will owe them a debt of gratitude if this bill becomes law. We urge its passage.”


The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) works to secure religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. The RFI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C.

Media Contact: Jeremy P. Barker
media@religiousfreedominstitute.org
202-838-7734
www.religiousfreedominstitute.org

What is to be Done? Symposium of Under Caesar's Sword Project

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How do Christians respond to persecution and advance religious freedom for everyone? How can the rest of the world exercise solidarity with those especially persecuted?

These questions were at the heart of the one day symposium of the Under Caesar's Sword project hosted at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on April 20, 2017. 

More than 225 attendees gathered for the launch of the public report: In Response to Persecution: Findings of the Under Caesar's Sword Project on Global Christian Communities

This report was one of the fruits of the work done by a team of 17 scholars who studied the response to persecution by Christian communities in more than 25 countries across the globe. The results were captured in a report that includes not only the analytical findings of this research, but substantial recommendations for action by a host of actors from international advocacy and assistance organizations, academics, religious communities, government agencies, and even persecuted communities themselves. 

The event featured keynote addresses from His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C. and Ms. Farahnaz Ispahani, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former member of the Pakistani parliament. 

A wide number of speakers including project scholars, advocates for religious freedom, and representative from Christian communities around the globe provided analysis both on the findings of the project and more importantly - and the theme of the symposium - what is to be done. 

His Excellency Sebastian Francis Shaw, Archbishop of Lahore, Pakistan provided a powerful testimony from his own life experience of shepherding a church in the context of incredible challenge and opposition. 

The event also featured a special screening of the documentary Under Caesar's Sworddirected by award-winning director Jason Cohen. 

The full videos of event are available from the Under Caesar's Sword website here: http://ucs.nd.edu/public-events/launch/watch/

The symposium was hosted by the Under Caesar's Sword project and its main partners the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture and the Religious Freedom Institute, in collaboration with Aid to the Church in Need USA.

Co-sponsoring the event were the Program on Church, State & Society at the University of Notre Dame, the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, In Defense of Christians, and the Institute for Global Engagement

To learn more about the Under Caesar's Sword project and to access additional resources visit: www.ucs.nd.edu

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Shah: Religious Perspectives On Democracy, Civil Society And Constitutional Issues Today

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On March 14, RFI Senior Advisor Timothy Shah presented the opening keynote presentation at the Religious Perspectives On Democracy, Civil Society And Constitutional Issues Today conference organized by the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) and the Kairos Dialogue Network. 

In his paper, Shah argued that many of the secularist aims, rather than protecting the rights of all have been controlling of religious claims and a threat to limit freedom and democracy in drastic ways. He argues that there is a way to go "beyond secularism" but not "beyond religious freedom." 

In order to make progress towards the legitimate goals of authentic religious freedom and religious tolerance as well as an authentic and genuinely liberal form of democracy premised on equal citizenship for all, it is necessary to go “beyond secularism” — though not “beyond religious freedom” — by recovering a sound understanding of religious liberty rooted in (and not hostile to) the world’s religious, cultural, and philosophical traditions.
— Timothy Shah

Shah and Philpott: In Defense of Religious Freedom

"Not so very long ago, the idea of religious freedom enjoyed all the self-evident virtue of a Norman Rockwell painting. Sure, Americans disagreed about what it meant in practice, leaving their Supreme Court to hash out the details. Still, however Americans differed in their religious beliefs, they espoused religious freedom and insisted that it cannot be government's job to promote any one religious sect over others or coerce anyone's conscience in religious matters." 

The reality is that this has changed. New critics have emerged about the value of religious freedom as a fundamental right. In this article Timothy Shah, RFI Senior Advisor, and Daniel Philpott, Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, review some of the arguments against religious freedom and make a case in defense of this "beleaguered human right." 

Philpott, Daniel and Timothy Samuel Shah. "IN DEFENSE OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: NEW CRITICS OF A BELEAGUERED HUMAN RIGHT". Journal of Law and Religion 31.03 (2016): 380-395.

Download Full Text

RFI Announces $1.6 million Grant

Press Release

RFI Announces $1.6 million Grant

February 07, 2017, Washington, D.C.— The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) is pleased to announce the award of a $1.6 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust. The funding will be used to advance RFI’s goal of achieving broad acceptance of religious freedom as a fundamental human right, the cornerstone of a successful society, and a source of national and international security. The grant will focus in particular on RFI’s South and Southeast Asia Action Team.

Religious freedom is in deepening global crisis. Outside the West, a dearth of religious freedom is driving political instability, economic stagnation, intellectual paralysis, religious conflict, and terrorism. Millions are subject to violent religious persecution by governments and non-state actors. Inside the West, religious freedom is increasingly misunderstood and degraded to a right of private worship. The crisis is multifaceted, complex, and serious.

“In the twenty-first century we are witnessing the emergence of a ‘perfect storm’ of skepticism, hostility, indifference, and ignorance concerning the meaning and value of religious freedom,” said Tom Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute. “Some Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist groups overseas view it as Western cultural imperialism. Secular authoritarian regimes see it as a threat to power and authority. Western democracies increasingly understand it as an illegitimate claim of privilege by religious people who seek to deny the equality of others.”

With its four Action Teams, the RFI is working to overcome opposition to religious freedom in South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the United States, and in the foreign policies of Western governments.

With the generous support of the Templeton Religion Trust, RFI’s South and Southeast Asia (SSEA) Action Team will be led by RFI Senior Advisor Timothy Shah and RFI Senior Fellow Rebecca Shah. They will work in that region to make religious freedom a priority for governments, civil society, religious communities, businesses, and the general public, with the ultimate aim of convincing stakeholders that religious freedom can help them achieve their own goals—political, economic, strategic, and religious.

"We are proud to embark on this project at a critical time in the region and the world," said Timothy Shah, SSEA Action Team leader. "The SSEA region hosts a large and dynamic population and is home to one third of the world's population and, in Indonesia and India, respectively the world's largest Muslim and Hindu countries. These countries represent both challenges and opportunities for strengthening religious freedom to protect the fundamental rights of all."

The SSEA Action Team will build a coalition of religious freedom actors in the region, produce a comprehensive report on the landscape of relevant actors, threats, and opportunities in the region, devise strategies to advance religious freedom, and take action to implement those strategies.

Learn More: South and Southeast Asia Action Team


The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) works to secure religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. The RFI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C.

Media Contact: Jeremy P. Barker
media@religiousfreedominstitute.org
202-838-7734
www.religiousfreedominstitute.org

Catholic Herald Features Coverage of Under Caesar's Sword Documentary

The Arlington Catholic Herald published an extensive article on the issue of global persecution and the new documentary Under Caesar's Sword produced by RFI and the Notre Dame Center for Culture and Ethics. 

"Tens of thousands of Christians and Catholics, facing death or forced conversions, fled their homes in Iraq when the Islamic State group took control of the region. This past Advent, 25 people were murdered and many more were injured by a suicide bomber at St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo. The Muslim militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria has killed thousands. These horrific stories are well-known, but many others go untold. A recent documentary, also named “Under Caesar's Sword,” explores this worldwide persecution.

Though these experiences are unfamiliar to most Americans, the documentary hopes viewers find solidarity with their fellow Christians."

We can’t subcontract concern and compassion. We can’t expect our government to do what we’re not willing to do.
— Timothy Shah

Read the full article here: New documentary shows the worldwide persecution of Christians by Zoey Maraist (@ZoeyMaraist)

Watch the trailer and learn more about the project here: Under Caesar's Sword

Tim Shah Delivers Baylor University's Jackson Memorial Lecture

Senior Advisor Tim Shah was invited to deliver the 23rd Annual Jackson Memorial Lecture as part of Baylor University's Honor College. 

Shah's lecture was entitled "Religious Freedom in a World of Religious Fervor: The Human Rights issue of the Twenty-First Century."

"We are delighted to host Dr. Timothy Shah, the latest in a long line of distinguished speakers for the Laura Blanche Jackson Memorial Lecture,” said Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., dean of the Honors College, director of the Baylor in Washington, D.C. program, and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture. “Shah is an expert on both domestic and global religious liberty with particular expertise on religion in India. Deeply learned, he is an engaging speaker, whose talk will be both accessible to undergraduates and edifying for faculty." 

The Laura Blanche Jackson Endowed Memorial Lectureship in World Issues is dedicated to piecing together a larger picture of the individual issues that contribute to today's world affairs.

Past lectures have featured distinguished guests such as Robert P. George, Andrew H. Card, Jr., and George Weigel. The lectures focus on the individual issues that help to piece together a fuller understanding of world affairs. 

Learn more about the Jackson Lectures.

Under Caesar's Sword: New Documentary Highlights Christian Response to Persecution

How do Christians globally respond to persecution? How will you respond? 

These questions are at the heart of a new documentary: 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. A team of 14 scholars, representing the world’s leading scholars of Christianity in their respective regions, traveled around the world to study Christian communities in over 30 countries including China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, and India. 

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

The full film and accompanying resources are available at: ucs.nd.edu/film
Learn more about the Under Caesar's Sword project: http://ucs.nd.edu/

Tim Shah to Senior Military Leaders from the Middle East: Religious Freedom as a Strategy against Extremism

Senior Advisor and South and Southeast Asia Action Team Director, Timothy Shah, addressed a high level gathering of senior military leaders on the importance of religious freedom in the effort to combat violent extremism.  

The conference, “Religious Freedom: An Effective Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism,” was organized and sponsored by The Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies, in support of the US Army Central Command (ARCENT), at National Defense University in Washington, D.C on September 19, 2016.

Religious freedom is not only an individual right to be protected, but it is an important contributor to the safety, security, and stability of societies and nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East. 

Engaging the "New Critics" of Religious Freedom: Tim Shah Presents New Paper

RFI Senior Advisor Timothy Shah delivered a paper entitled, “Engaging the ‘New Critics’ of Religious Freedom,” at the Fourth International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies Conference. Shah's paper was part of a discussion on Freedom of Religion and International Law. 

Shah's paper addresses recent literature that brings charges that religious freedom is a Western cultural construct being imposed on foreign cultures.

[Religious freedom] does not rest upon western liberal notions of individual autonomy or any one theology, philosophy, ideology, or political doctrine. Religious freedom is rather a human claim. It is conceptually modest yet morally critical, rooted in every human being’s simple yearning to explore and embrace authentic answers to the most ultimate questions, free from coercive interference by others.
— Tim Shah, Engaging the “New Critics” of Religious Freedom: A Review Essay

The fourth ICLARS conference brought together more than 150 experts from 37 countries to discuss the topic of “Freedom of/for/from/within Religion: Differing Dimensions of a Common Right?”, at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom, on Sept. 9, 2016.

The International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies is an international network of scholars and experts in law and religion begun in 2007 with Professor Silvio Ferrari of the University of Milan as President. The purpose of ICLARS is to provide a forum for exchange of information, data, and opinions among members — at present from more than 40 countries — which can be made available to the broader scientific community. 

Learn more about ICLARS and the Conference: ICLARS IV: "Freedom of/for/from/within Religion: Differing Dimensions of a Common Right?"

Read: Timothy Shah and Daniel Philpott (2016): Engaging the "New Critics" of Religious Freedom

Photo Credit: ICLRS