The Third Annual IRF Summit Convenes in Washington, DC

William Roberts reports — The third annual International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit was held in Washington, DC on January 31 through February 1.  Former U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, and Dr. Katrina Lantos-Swett, former Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), served as summit co-chairs.  Religious freedom advocates, including In Defense of Christians, and multitudes of community representatives from around the world convened to raise awareness on the issue of religious persecution and explore solutions with government officials.

Headlining speakers included USAID Administrator Samantha Power, and His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III.  On February 1, Ms. Nazira Goreya, Co-President of the Gozarto Region for the Democratic Self-Administration of northeast Syria, addressed the conference.  Ms. Goreya provided an update on the status of Syriac (including Assyrian and Chaldean) Christians in northeast Syria.  She emphasized the challenges facing the community in the face of Turkish threats. Over the course of the summit, Ms. Goreya met with several U.S. and foreign government officials to discuss the accomplishments and the remaining needs of the Syriac community in northeast Syria.

The Hungarian Secretary of State for Aid to Persecuted Christians, Tristan Azbej, was among the foreign government officials with whom Ms. Goreya spoke.  The Hungary Helps program has cooperated on many development and reconstruction projects with the Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, and Armenian churches.  Such projects have also seen to the administration of direct aid to Christian communities in Syria.  Ms. Goreya encouraged Secretary Azbej to expand Hungary’s efforts into areas under the autonomous administration in northeast Syria, in coordination with USAID efforts.

William Roberts is a Government Relations Associate at In Defense of Christians