A rare glimpse of bipartisanship in the volatile political atmosphere of Washington D.C. kicked off the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit 2023 Tuesday, setting a tone of cooperation and mutual understanding for the event.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee joined Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat, on the stage at the Washington Hilton as part of a panel to address why international religious freedom is key to U.S. foreign policy.
The panel followed a welcome by IRF Summit Co-Chair Ambassador Sam Brownback who declared the coalition’s mission was “religious freedom for everyone, everywhere, all the time.” The two day summit brings together a broad coalition “that passionately supports religious freedom around the globe.” Patheos, the world’s homepage for all religions, is a summit partner.
McGovern and McCaul both agreed that religious freedom remains under assault around the world. While acknowledging the panel usually “wouldn’t even agree on lunch,” McGovern touted the work both men have done to promote religious freedom including introducing legislation to promote a peaceful resolution to the Tibet and China conflict.
McCaul highlighted the continued need to address religious freedom abuses in China, Afghanistan, Iran, Nicaragua and Israel, particularly against women.
“To all those listening, we stand with you,” McCaul said.
McGovern noted that as a practicing Roman Catholic he knew his religious freedom depended on the same freedoms for his Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim neighbors.
“Unless freedom of religion belongs to everyone, it doesn’t truly belong to anyone,” McGovern said.
Political diversity gave way to a faith kaleidoscope later in the afternoon when some of the world’s most preeminent religious figures joined a panel session on equal citizenship as envisioned by the Marrakesh Declaration.
The distinguished panel included:
- Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, President of the Abu Dhabi Peace Forum
- His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem
- Imam Mohamed Magid, Co-Founder Multi-Faith Neighbors Network and Executive Imam, All Dulles Area Muslim Society
- Pastor Bob Roberts Jr., Co-Founder of Multi-Faith Neighbors Network
- Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center Director Emeritus and Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy