“It’s almost as if they were allergic to acknowledging the impact of faith and religion on the peoples of the world,” said Dolan, recalling what Pompeo told him.
Dolan said that he experienced this on a visit to Lebanon and Syria. When he asked a U.S. embassy official if he had interacted with the ancient Christian communities of the area, the official replied that it was “none of our business” to meet with these communities.
He noted that recent secretaries of state John Kerry and Madeleine Albright had credited the work of religious leaders towards achieving world peace. He cited “areas such as Northern Ireland, Nicaragua, South Sudan and Afghanistan, where recent progress could never have been gained without the direct involvement of religious leaders.”
“So maybe we’re finally learning,” said Dolan.
Cardinal Dolan also shared the story of Cardinal Pio Laghi, special papal envoy to the United States, who met with President George W. Bush in March 2003 and urged the president to not invade Iraq.
After Laghi “left the oval office after what we now know was a futile attempt to change the president’s mind, the reporters asked him, ‘Have you given up hope?,’” said Dolan. The cardinal replied “‘I’m in the business of hope. We will not give up.’”
Dolan said it is “rare” that churches, synagogues, and mosques in the United States do not intervene to protect each others’ religious freedom.
This “gives me hope,” he said. “And, my cherished colleagues, you and I need hope.”
The International Religious Freedom Summit on Thursday awarded several figures for their work in advancing religious liberty.
Kathy Ireland, a former model turned entrepreneur and philanthropist, received the first-ever Business International Religious Freedom Champion Award.
The IRF Champion Award for a Youth Leader Award was given to Wai Wai Nu, a Burmese former political prisoner who was arrested at the age of 18. After her release in 2012, she founded two NGOs to promote peace in Myanmar and to give legal aid to women.
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The chief executive and cofounder of Hong Kong Watch, Benedict Rogers, received the IRF Champion Award for Effective Advocacy. He addressed the dinner via Skype from his home in London.
Sam Brownback, co-chair of the IRF Summit, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. Brownback quipped that while “this may be a lifetime achievement award,” that his life was not over and neither was his advocacy work.
“I'm not going to stop fighting for international religious freedom and neither are you," said Brownback.