Ambassador Sam Brownback - U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom

Sam Brownback was sworn in as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom on February 1, 2018. He served as Governor of Kansas from 2011 to 2018. Previously he served as a U.S. Senator (1996-2011) and a U.S. Representative in the House of Representatives (1995-1996) from Kansas. While a member of the Senate, he worked actively on the issue of religious freedom in multiple countries and was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. He also served as Kansas Secretary of Agriculture (1986-1993) and was a White House Fellow in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (1990-1991). Prior to his public service, Ambassador Brownback was a private attorney in Kansas and taught agricultural law at Kansas State University, co-authoring two books on the subject. He earned a B.S. from Kansas State University and a J.D. from the University of Kansas.


Ján Figel´ - European Union Special Envoy for the Promotion of Religion or Belief Outside the EU

Ján Figel' supports implementation of the "EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief" with a special focus on country level action. He pays country visits engaging with national authorities and institutions, civil society, human rights organisations, and religious leaders and communities. He participates in international initiatives and multilateral processes and dialogues with various stakeholders, including civil society, religious actors, and academia. At the core of his work lays the promotion of respect for diversity on religious or belief grounds and the support for inclusive intercultural and interreligious dialogue processes.

In his work the Special Envoy is committed to an approach based on the protection of all human rights including freedom of religion or belief, the right to believe or not to believe.



Jeff Fortenberry represents Nebraska’s First Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. He is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for the expenditures of the United States government. He serves on three subcommittees with importance for our national and economic security: Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and State and Foreign Operations. In Congress, Jeff serves as co-chair of the Nuclear Security Working Group, co-chair of the Caucus on Religious Minorities in the Middle East, and co-chair of the Congressional Study Group on Europe.

Prior to serving in Congress, Jeff worked as a publishing industry executive in Lincoln, where he also served on the Lincoln City Council from 1997-2001. Jeff also has significant personal experience in small business, public policy analysis, and economic development. Jeff earned a bachelor's degree in economics and two master's degrees, one in public policy. He and his wife Celeste live in Lincoln and have five daughters. His work in Congress is rooted in the belief that the strength of our nation depends on the strength of our families and communities.


Tom Farr - President, Religious Freedom Institute

Tom Farr served in the U.S. Army and Foreign Service for 28 years. He has spent the last two decades advocating for religious liberty, including as founding Director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and as Director of Georgetown’s Religious Freedom Research Project. The arguments Tom made in his 2008 book, World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Freedom is Vital to American National Security (Oxford), have shaped legislation introduced in the Congress in 2016. Tom is Associate Professor of the Practice of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. His Ph.D. is from the University of North Carolina.


Jacqueline Halbig von Schleppenbach - Executive Director, International Catholic Legislators Network-WesternHemisphere

Jacqueline is the Principal consultant of Sovereign Global Solutions and the Executive Director of the of the International Catholic Legislators Network-Western Hemisphere (ICLN-WH), an international fellowship and network, that brings together Catholic parliamentarians from around the world for Faith, Fellowship and Formation. Through the course of her career, she has worked to defend life, religious freedom and marriage in the public square. She has served in senior executive positions at the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Labor, the Office of the Governor of Virginia. In 2009, she founded a consultancy to assist public, private and non-profit sector clients in various industries; including healthcare, public health, education and international business.  Jacqueline provides public policy, government relations, communications, strategic partnership and business development consulting services. She is a founding member of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast Board and a board member of the ICLN-WH and the German American Heritage Foundation. 

Jacqueline received a B.A. Political Science in Political Science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina and an M.A.  in Statecraft and International Affairs from the Institute of World Politics, Washington, D.C. 

She lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her wonderful husband, Greg, and their dog, “Beanie.” 


Nina Shea - Director, Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute

Nina Shea is a Hudson Institute senior fellow, where she directs the Center for Religious Freedom; a former commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; and an international human rights lawyer. She helped organize and lead a coalition of churches and religious groups that worked to end a religious war against non-Muslims and dissident Muslims in southern Sudan; in 2004 and 2005 she advised in the drafting of the religious freedom provisions in Iraq’s constitution. Her publications include Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians (2013, with Paul Marshall and Lela Gilbert), Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide (2011, with Paul Marshall), In the Lion’s Den: A Shocking Account of Persecuted and Martyrdom of Christians Today and How We Should Respond (1996), Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance (2006), and Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques (2005). Shea is a graduate of Smith College and American University’s Washington College of Law.


Ismail Royer - Research and Program Associate, Religious Freedom Institute

Ismail Royer is a Research and Program Associate on the Religious Freedom Institute's Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team. He was born and raised in St. Louis, converted to Islam in 1992 and moved to Washington, DC the following year to study political science at American University. His expertise is writing and research, and his articles have been published in a diversity of publications such as the Journal of Religion and Society, the Detroit Free Press, and Al Jumuah Magazine. Ismail's interests are philosophy, history, Islamic theology, and in developing strategies to promote peace and dialogue between faiths while undermining extremist ideology.


Kellie Fiedorek - Legal Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom

Kellie Fiedorek serves as legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a member of the Alliance Advancement Team.

Since joining ADF in 2012, Fiedorek has defended religious liberty, marriage, and the family against legal attacks. She has authored federal and state legislation, and advised members of Congress, governors, state attorneys general, state legislators, and policy organizations on how to preserve First Amendment freedoms. 

Fiedorek has testified before state legislatures across the country on the importance of safeguarding religious liberty, free speech, the sanctity of life, and the right to privacy. She has also litigated cases defending the constitutionally protected freedom of citizens to live and work according to their conscience. Her appellate advocacy practice has included authoring and coordinating amicus briefs for pivotal U.S. Supreme Court, federal court, and state court appellate cases.

Fiedorek earned her Juris Doctor from Ave Maria School of Law in 2009. Before graduating from law school, she completed the Alliance Defending Freedom leadership development program to become a Blackstone Fellow in 2008. She is a member of the state bar of Florida, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Supreme Court, and multiple federal appellate courts.


Anuttama Dasa - International Director of Communications, International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Advisory Board, RFI

Anuttama is a respected leader in interfaith initiatives, including the Religion Communicators Council and the Vaishnava-Christian Dialogue and Vaishnava-Muslim Dialogue. Since 2000, he has been a member of the Governing Body Commission (GBC) of ISKCON, a Vaishnava (Hindu) tradition, and is on the Board of the Bhaktivedanta College in Belgium.


Marcela Szymanski - EU Liaison, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) AND Editor of ACN’s biennial report, “Religious Freedom in the World” 

Marcela was born in Mexico City and has been living in the US and Europe for the last 25 years. Currently based in Brussels, she in charge of International Advocacy projects for Aid to the Church in Need. She is also the Editor of the worldwide Religious Freedom Report of the foundation, which is published every 2 years. Marcela has a bachelor’s degree in Communications, a master’s in Economic Policy and a PhD (abd) in International Politics, she works in 5 languages. After having worked as correspondent for CNN en Español and other international media in Brussels, she took the path of advocacy toward EU institutions and then started to work for Aid to the Church in Need in 2011. She is the main contact of members of the European Parliament and policy-makers in the EU, Geneva and other Western capitals. The report “Religious Freedom in the World”, covering 196 countries and is published in 6 languages will be published this year on 22 November 2018.


Balakrishnan Baskaran - India, ADF International

Balakrishnan Baskaran is a lawyer practicing in the area of constitutional law and human rights in India with a special emphasis on religious freedom and minority rights. He also serves as legal consultant for Alliance Defending Freedom in New Delhi.  

Balakrishnan formerly worked as Private Secretary to the Vice Chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities, a statutory body set up under an act of the Indian Parliament to safeguard the rights of religious minorities in India.