WASHINGTON – Ahead of the annual National Prayer Breakfast, international religious leaders from across the theological and political spectrum will make a unified commitment to concrete actions calling for respect of Muslims in the United States and affirming the rights of religious minorities around the world, including Christians in Muslim countries.
More than 300 leaders, including evangelical Christian Pastor Bob Roberts of NorthWood Church in Texas, former U.S. ambassador Rabbi David Saperstein and Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Virginia, will gather at the Washington Marriott Marquis, Feb. 5 -7, for the Alliance of Virtue conference to draft the “Washington Declaration.”
The declaration is expected to be signed in a ceremony at 9:30 am on Wednesday, Feb. 7 by a diverse group including Shia and Sunni, Evangelical and Jewish, Catholic and Mainline clergy and leaders from the United States, Europe and the Middle East. A press conference with simultaneous translation will immediately follow.
The gathering leading up to the Washington Declaration is hosted by the Forum for Promoting Peace and H.E. Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, the forum’s president, who will address the religious leaders.
“Like many evangelicals in America, I am very much concerned about my fellow Christians around the world and their ability to safely practice their faith. At the same time, what is often lost in conversations about global religious freedom is that concern for my fellow Christians abroad must extend to Muslims at home,” said Roberts, who, along with Magid and Saperstein, is a convener of the American Peace Caravan, an effort to build relationships and foster collaboration among leaders of the three major Abrahamic faiths. “We are our brother’s keeper and we are called to do unto others as we would have them do to us. It is in the spirit of this call that is critical for all Christians, including my fellow evangelicals, to build relationships with people of other faiths and support efforts like the Washington Declaration.”
United by the shared values of the Abrahamic faith traditions, conference organizers hope to empower clergy and religious leaders to mobilize their congregations to take concrete steps in support of religious minorities both in the United States and around the world.
The newly appointed US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback called religious freedom “the most important foreign relations topic today.”
He pledged to deliver “initiatives to foreign governments at the highest levels and to my own government. This and similar initiatives are critical and we will do whatever possible to be supportive. This administration has made it clear that this a foreign policy and national security objective. I look forward to hearing from you how we can collectively and collaboratively achieve this shared objective.
“Your initiative serves as a model for what can be achieved when people from the Abrahamic faith backgrounds join together in a common cause,” he indicated.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Timo Soini called the Alliance of Virtue conference in Washington “a great opportunity to mobilize mediators working inside traditional and faith oriented groups.
“It seems there is a need for creating a multi-religious body consisting of prominent religious actors to support mediation and reconciliation,” Soini said.
“Such a body would stand ready to intervene in the constructive manner when political crisis or other disputes arise … in accordance with solid values and engage in mediation-oriented peace-seeking and fundamentally dialogical action, he said.
“If religion is part of the problem, it is also part of the solution. Both religious and political actors share the moral responsibility to make sure that this rings true,” he added.
The Washington Declaration builds on the Marrakesh Declaration, signed January 27, 2016, by more than 350 Muslim scholars and leaders from more than 60 counties in the Muslim and Arab world. The Marrakesh Declaration affirmed the rights of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries.
What? Signing of the Washington Declaration, a unified statement affirming the rights of religious minorities and calling for respect of Muslims in the United States
Who? More than 300 international and U.S. based leaders, including:
- Evangelical Christian Pastor Bob Roberts, founding pastor of the Northwood Church
- Rabbi David Saperstein, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom
- Imam Mohamed Magid, executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society
- Dr William Vendley, Chair, Religions for Peace International
Where? Washington Marriott Marquis, 901 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20001
When? Wednesday, February 7, 2018. Signing ceremony at 9:30 a.m., followed by a press conference at 11:00 a.m.
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