IRF Summit 2024: RFI Highlights

February 1, 2024

RFI was proud to be a co-sponsor of the fourth annual International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit, held January 29–31 in Washington, D.C. The goal of the IRF Summit is to “gain political support for the global religious freedom movement and embolden civil society, people of faith, and governments to take a stand for religious freedom.” 

The work of the IRF Summit is as urgent as ever. As RFI President Emeritus Tom Farr recently wrote

Comprehensive annual reports issued between 2007 and 2022 by the Pew Research Center show that international religious persecution has actually increased, in some cases dramatically. The fundamental right of religious freedom for every human being is as fragile as ever outside the West, and is under increasing pressure in Western Europe and the United States.

As the IRF Summit Charter (which Farr also authored) states, “the denial of religious freedom to any person is to deny his or her right to live a fully human life and to flourish as a human being.” Moreover, “protecting religious freedom equally for all persons, and for all their respective religious communities, is critical to individual human flourishing, the flourishing of religion, and the flourishing of nations.” The stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to the state of religious freedom around the globe today, and the IRF Summit plays an important role in driving collaboration and action to defend and advance this fundamental human right.  

Learn more about RFI’s contributions to the 2024 IRF Summit below:

University Partnership Program 

RFI led the official student initiative of the IRF Summit, the University Partnership Program. Through this program, institutions awarded scholarships to their student leaders to attend a 3-day, world-class experience focused on religious freedom and human rights. Jointly sponsored by the IRF Summit and RFI’s National Center for Religious Freedom Education, the program offered high-impact training sessions and guided simulations to undergraduate and graduate students interested in exploring religious freedom as a basic human right and prerequisite for human flourishing. At the conclusion of the seminar on day one, students joined the 2024 IRF Summit as full participants with the opportunity to learn from and network with government officials and civil society leaders from around the world.


Breakout Session – Law and Religion: Legal Victories & Tools for IRF

  • Stephanie Barclay, Faculty Director, Religious Liberty Initiative,
  • Notre Dame University
  • Bob Destro, Columbus Law School, Catholic University of America; Senior Fellow, Religion Freedom Institute 
  • Cole Durham, G20 Interfaith Forum
  • Brett Scharffs, Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies; Advisory Board Member, Religious Freedom Institute 
  • Sarah Teich, Human Rights Action Group

Breakout Session – Religious Freedom Violations in War & Conflict Zones: Ukraine, Armenia, Nigeria

  • Ambassador Sam Brownback, IRF, Summit Co-Chair
  • Mykhailo Byrstn, Head of Mission, Eurasia’s Religious Freedom Initiative
  • Fred Davie, Commissioner, USCIRG
  • Fr. Ambrose Ekeroku, Nigerian Priest; Intern, Religious Freedom Institute 
  • Lauren Homer, President, Law and Liberty Trust
  • Dmytro Lubinets, Ombudsman, Ukraine
  • Michael Rubin, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
  • Gregory Stanton, Founding President and Chairman, Genocide Watch
  • Victor Zelenksy, Director, Ukrainian State Service for Ethnic Public Policy and Religious Affairs

Breakout Session – Voices of Education for IRF

  • Matius Ho, Executive Director, Lemeina Institute
  • David Trimble, Vice President for Public Policy and Education, Religious Freedom Institute
  • James Walters, Director, LSE Faith Center
  • Hawber Abdullah 
  • Mario Brimbank

Breakout Session – Global Spotlight on IRF Victories: Where Do We Go from Here? 

  • Eric Patterson, President, Religious Freedom Institute
  • Fiona Bruce, United Kingdom Special Envoy, Freedom of Religion or Belief
  • Ambassador Rashad Hussain, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
  • Nadine Maenza, President, IRF Secretariat
  • Nick Fish, President, American Atheists
  • Jeremy Barker, Director, Middle East Action Team, Religious Freedom Institute

Breakout Session – Violations in Western Democracies

  • Arielle Del Turco, Director, Center for Religious Liberty, Family Research Council
  • Andrew P.W. Bennett, Program Director, Faith Communities Cardus; Senior Fellow, Religious Freedom Institute
  • Dr. Aaron Edwards, Author and Theologian
  • Elizabeth Francis, Legal Counsel, Global Religious Freedom for ADF International


A new video debuted on the main stage sharing the story of the Mayflower Church, a congregation of Chinese Christians who escaped from persecution to freedom in the United States in April 2023. The video included the role that RFI’s David Trimble played, working with a small group of partners to help bring them safely to the United States.

Watch the video: