Letter from Mark Winter, Chairman of the Board
Dear Friends of Religious Freedom,
A few years ago I became aware of a remarkable group of gentlemen serving at my alma mater (Georgetown University, class of ’66). They were the leaders of Georgetown’s Religious Freedom Project, and I was so impressed with their work that I told them I wanted to help. What struck me at the time was the high quality of their work, and the character reflected in their lives of service to others. You can see that character in many ways, but most importantly in their passionate commitment to religious freedom for all people.
For them, religious freedom is not some “nice-to-have” privilege granted by governments. Religious freedom is a right granted by God—to everyone, everywhere. To deny that right is to deny something at the core of what it means to be human, and what it means to live a fully human life. Governments don’t create religious freedom. Governments—if they are to be lasting and just—must recognize and protect religious freedom for all their citizens.
Unfortunately, as the foregoing pages make clear, few governments in the world see it that way. Religious freedom is in global crisis. Human beings are suffering terrible persecution because of their religious beliefs. Entire societies are being thrown into chaos. Christianity itself is in danger of elimination from Iraq and Syria, and is at risk throughout the Middle East.
It is thus a tragic irony that Western nations, where religious liberty was born and bred, are today forsaking their historic commitment to that fundamental right, and are doing so little to stem the horrors that are being perpetrated against people of faith around the world.
I was gratified when my friends told me that they could not stand by and watch these tragedies unfold. They said they were going to launch a new non-profit—the RELIGIOUS FREEDOM INSTITUTE (RFI)—to address the crisis. They also invited me to be the Chairman of the Board.
RFI’s Action Teams are going to advance arguments, grounded in objective research and data, that will improve the lives of human beings suffering because of their religious beliefs. We will convince those with power and influence that they cannot achieve their own objectives—things like economic growth, political stability, religious vitality, or the defeat of violent religious extremism—without religious freedom.
We will also work to convince Western governments that their national security and the safety of their citizens will be dramatically increased if they can learn how to advance religious freedom successfully in their foreign policies.
As I see it, there is not much that is more important to our nation, and to the world, than this work. It affects all of us, no matter what our religious beliefs—or even if we have none. That is because things don’t work well without religious freedom. People suffer. Societies suffer. International peace, stability, and justice suffer.
Perhaps you are like me. Ten or twenty years from now, I don’t want to be asking myself why I did so little to help. I don’t want to wonder when it’s too late to matter, “Why didn’t I get involved?”
Here is an opportunity for you to get involved. To do something concrete to help our own beloved nation, as well as the persecuted in the Middle East and elsewhere.
I earnestly invite you to join us in the vital work of the Religious Freedom Institute. Please consider investing in us as part of our Founders Circle. We promise you to be good and faithful stewards of your trust, to treasure your partnership, and to continue—with God’s help and yours—to serve those whom He has created so that they may find Him and love Him in freedom.