RFI Makes Key Contributions to Upcoming IRF Summit 2021

June 24, 2021

The International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit, the premier annual religious freedom summit in the United States, will take place July 13-15 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. The Summit seeks to “create a coalition of organizations that operate together for the cause of religious freedom around the world” and “increase public awareness and political strength for the international religious freedom movement.” The Summit will feature panels with prominent speakers, including RFI President Tom Farr, Executive Vice President Eric Patterson, and Senior Fellow Rehman Chishti, a UK Member of Parliament. To register for the Summit, click here.

RFI has made substantial contributions to the planning and shaping of the Summit and will host a side event entitled, “Neutralizing the Harm of Blasphemy Laws: Religious Freedom in Muslim Countries.” The side event will focus on a recently published report of RFI’s FORIS Project entitled, “The Intersection of Blasphemy Laws & Institutional Religious Freedom: Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey.” Event participants include Paul Marshall, Director of RFI’s South and Southeast Asia Action Team; Ahmet Kuru, RFI FORIS Scholar and Professor of Political Science at San Diego State University; Farahnaz Ispahani, RFI Senior Fellow and former Member of Parliament in Pakistan; Rehman Chishti, RFI Senior Fellow and UK Member of Parliament; and Arafat Mazhar, with Engage Pakistan and CEO of Puffball Studios.

Dr. Patterson will serve as a moderator of a panel addressing the role of philanthropy in advancing international religious freedom.

Dr. Farr will speak on a panel that will provide context for understanding key aspects of international religious freedom today while also looking back at the founders and thought leaders who have shaped this movement over time. He also served on the Summit’s programs and steering committees and authored the governing document of the Summit entitled, “A Charter of Religious Freedom.

The full text of the Charter follows:

“Whereas the right of freedom of religion and conscience belongs to every person by virtue of his or her humanity, and reflects the core of his or her dignity and personhood;

Whereas men and women are endowed with reason and free will, and by their nature desire the truth, which religion seeks to provide;

Whereas the right to religious freedom is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Whereas 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;

Whereas religious freedom is important to human beings because religion is important to human beings; the vast majority of the world’s people belong to a religious community or are religious in some form;

Whereas 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;

Whereas the striving of nations toward full equality of religious freedom for all their citizens, and all their religious and non-religious communities, can contribute to social harmony, economic prosperity, political stability, and the lowering of religion-related violence;

Whereas the achievement by nations of religious freedom for all their citizens and religious communities, protected in law and valued by culture, would dramatically increase international justice, stability, and peace;

Whereas the defense of religious freedom transcends partisanship and politics, and the protection of conscience serves as a fundamental cornerstone for the flourishing of just, free societies;

Whereas, tragically, religious freedom for all persons and all religious communities does not yet exist in any nation, and the denial of religious freedom in its various components is widespread and increasing;

Whereas, tragically, the ultimate form of religious freedom deprivation – violent religious persecution – is also widespread and increasing, and is causing enormous human suffering, the destruction of families and communities, and the destabilization of entire societies;

This Summit hereby declares:

That every government, every religious community, and every political and civil society organization in the world should strive toward the goal of achieving freedom of religion and conscience, for everyone, everywhere – protected in law and valued by culture.

That religious freedom should be understood as three interconnected levels of rights:

  • The right of every human being freely to believe in religious truths, or not to believe, uncoerced by any human authority, especially the state with its extraordinary powers;

  • The right to join with others in a religious community, which also possesses religious freedom. This freedom includes the right to pursue the goods natural to religious communities, such as building houses of worship, training clergy, establishing religious schools, developing and upholding religious doctrines. It includes the rights of parents to raise their children within their chosen faith community. It includes the rights of individuals and communities to share their beliefs with others and to invite others to join their religious communities. It includes the rights of adherents to leave any religious community and to join another;

  • The rights of believers and of religious communities to live and act peacefully, within civil and political society, in accord with their religious beliefs. It includes the right of believers and their communities to draw on those beliefs as they participate in civic life. It includes the right to convey their religious views to the general public on issues of the common good, such as justice, peace, equality, and freedom.

That all people of good will, including leaders of international organizations, nations, religions, civil society institutions, media organizations, policy and political entities, should begin now to adopt practical steps toward the goal of achieving religious freedom for everyone, everywhere.

The text of the Charter is also available here.