human rights

Thomas Farr Gives Congressional Testimony on Advancing Human Rights to Combat Extremism

On Wednesday, December 6, Thomas Farr, President, Religious Freedom Institute, testified before Congress on the ways in which U.S. International Religious Freedom diplomacy can improve our nation’s ability to combat Islamist terror.

In short: more religious freedom abroad can help prevent the rise of terrorism and protect Americans here at home.

Full testimony: Employing Religious Freedom Diplomacy to Combat Extremism, Thomas F. Farr and hearing video is below. 

Thomas F. Farr, President, Religious Freedom Institute

Thomas F. Farr, President, Religious Freedom Institute

In marking World Human Rights Day (which takes place on December 10th, 2017), the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations of the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing examining the strategic contribution of human rights to addressing issues of extremism

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the subcommittee said, "The advancement of fundamental human rights – in particular, freedom of religion – should be a core objective of U.S. foreign policy. By emphasizing such principles, we counter extremist messaging, support moderate voices, and promote the popular aspirations of people around the world who wish to live in freedom and peace. We need to encourage such voices of moderation in the Islamic world, while waging a full-throated war of ideas with radical extremists such as ISIS. The ideological battlefield is just as important as the territorial one.”

Other Speakers included: John Lenczowski, Ph.D. (Founder and President, The Institute of World Politics), Sayyid Syeed, Ph.D., (Senior Advisor, Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances Islamic Society of North America), and Mr. Neil Hicks (Director, Human Rights Promotion, Human Rights First). 

Event Details: 
Wednesday, December 6 at 10:00 AM
2172 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-advancing-human-rights-combat-extremism/

Kent Hill Addresses International Consultation on Christian Persecution

The survival of Christianity in Iraq and Syria, the lands of its birth, is also a question of the survival of pluralism and religious freedom. The specter of Islamist extremist groups such as the Islamic state, brutal repression by authoritarian leaders, and a geopolitical conflict exacerbated by Sunni and Shi'a divisions have combined to threaten the presence of entire Christian communities.

These threats were the backdrop for the International Consultation on Christian Persecution – Finding the Appropriate Answers to a Long Neglected Crisis in Budapest hosted by the Hungarian Government's Ministry of Human Capacities and Deputy State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians. 

Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Church and Kent Hill, Religious Freedom Institute (Photo: RFI) 

Patriarch Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Church and Kent Hill, Religious Freedom Institute (Photo: RFI) 

Kent Hill, Executive Director of the Religious Freedom Institute and Director of the Middle East Action Team, addressed the consultation in a panel discussion on the critical role of international organizations and countries to promote religious freedom and protection of religious minorities through their foreign policy and international commitments.

It is imperative that we make the ‘pragmatic’ case for religious freedom. The emperical evidence is absolutely clear that there is direct correlation between the existence of religious freedom and all sorts of other social goods. In addition, where there is an absence of religious freedom, the chances of terrorism increase greatly.
— Kent Hill, Budapest, Hungary, Oct. 12, 2017

Dr. Hill was joined in the discussion by Ján Figel’, the European Union's  Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme Head of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Director of Aid to the Church in Need France Mr. Marc Fromager.

Implementing international commitments to protect religious minorities will be sustainable only if it includes religious freedom for all in the society, including a protections not just for religious minorities, but also for the majority community. 

Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister (Photo: Gergely Botár/kormany.hu)

Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister (Photo: Gergely Botár/kormany.hu)

Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister, delivered an opening speech to the consultation, calling on others to join their efforts of enabling Christian communities to return to their homelands. As he detailed the strategy his government has taken in working directly with churches, he acknowledged a larger goal that "we want Christian communities returning to Syria, Iraq and Nigeria to become forces for the preservation of their own countries, just as for us Hungarians Christianity is a force for preservation."

Prime Minister Orbán highlighted the provision of more than $2 million in assistance to provide for the reconstruction of homes in Teleskof, a Christian town on the Nineveh Plains. He urged other countries and international donors to follow suit, working with the Churches and their combined efforts such as the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee.

International Consultation on Christian Persecution – Finding the Appropriate Answers to a Long Neglected Crisis. Oct. 11-13,2017, Budapest, Hungary (Photo: MTI) 

International Consultation on Christian Persecution – Finding the Appropriate Answers to a Long Neglected Crisis. Oct. 11-13,2017, Budapest, Hungary (Photo: MTI) 

The discussion throughout the consultation focused on finding concrete action steps that will enable the sustainable return of Christian communities to their homelands and address the root causes that are driving conflict and displacement.

Hungarian Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó, in his remarks cited the need for international cooperation to “give a clear and coordinated answer to the extremism spreading in the world and forcing millions to leave their homes.”

Any sustained effort will require the continued provision of humanitarian assistance for the reconstruction and revitalization of these communities and must also include the work of civil society and government to address the societal and political factors that have incubated religion-related violence and terrorism. 

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.

RFI President Addresses UK Foreign Office Conference on Religious Freedom vs. Violent Extremism

On October 19-20, 2016, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office hosted an important conference in London looking at the crucial role that religious freedom plays in disarming the ideologies that produce extremism and religiously motivated terrorism. Religious freedom is an important tool in undercutting the narratives that extremists use to motivate their followers to violent actions against minorities, the government, those of another faith, or even their co-religionists. 

RFI President Tom Farr was asked to address the conference as part of an opening panel to set the scene, illuminating: Why Freedom of Religion or Belief is Particularly Relevant. 

The conference gathered a diverse group of academics, activists, faith leaders, and political figures to look not only at the problem but to understand the crucial role of religious freedom in countering religiously motivated violence. 

This struggle is the biggest challenge of our generation. It is a struggle we must win. We need to build societies that are more resilient against violent extremism. We believe that protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief is an important part of building that resilience.
— Baroness Joyce Anelay, Minister of State, Foreign Commonwealth Office

Photo Credit: @FCOHuman Rights

Tom Farr Congressional Testimony: Religious Freedom Under Siege

On July 12, Tom Farr testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on religious freedom under siege worldwide.

In his testimony, Dr. Farr argued before the Congress that religious freedom stands at the core of what it means to be human. No person can live a fully human life with the right to seek God and to live in accord with the truth as he or she understands it.
 
Religious freedom protects this most fundamental right. It also promotes individual and societal human flourishing. When religious freedom is missing other social goods are missing, and when it is present human rights, democratic stability, and economic growth all are able to grow and undermine the causes that often drive violence and extremism. The work of promoting religious freedom really can work to keep Americans here at home safe.
 
You can read his full testimony and learn more about the hearing here:
Hearing: Human Rights Under Siege Worldwide

Thomas Farr Testimony: U.S. International Religious Freedom Policy: Addressing the Global Crisis in Human Rights and Increasing American National Security