Open Doors USA has been calling for the US government to fill this position as a critical move to defend religious minorities around the world. They are encouraged by Brownback’s confirmation in this role.
Kristin Wright, Director of Advocacy for Open Doors USA, shares, “As advocates for religious freedom and as advocates for the persecuted Church, we’re really excited just to have a leader within the State Department with access who can implement foreign policy changes that have to do with religious freedom around the world.”
While in the Senate, Brownback spoke out about human rights abuses, especially in Sudan and North Korea. He also served as co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.
“Something I think is really important to note is that during his days in the Senate, Sam Brownback was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act, which was foundational in creating the office of International Religious Freedom at the US State Department, which he will now lead in his new capacity as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.”
Wright adds, “One of the things I’ve really loved seeing is a quote from Sam Brownback from years ago describing religious freedom as ‘the choice of what you do with your own soul.’ So this is someone who I think is going to be a champion, not only for persecuted Christians but for religious minorities, those of faith, and those of no faith at all. Because that’s what religious freedom is all about — that ability to make that choice about what you believe.”
In the last 10 years, the position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom has been vacant more often than not.
“I think that’s a really sad reality because…persecution [is] on the rise around the world. Open Doors, for instance, just released the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List. This is a list that documents the 50 countries in the world where Christians face the most severe persecution because of their faith. And when I’m talking about persecution, I’m talking about rape, I’m talking about murder, I’m talking about being specifically targeted because of your faith.”
The top five countries on the World Watch List for extreme Christian persecution are North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Pakistan. As Ambassador-at-Large, Brownback will be able not just to raise awareness on religious persecution in these countries, but to denounce regimes that allow religious persecution and to encourage international policies that will hold them accountable.
“Due to recent legislation, Ambassador Brownback will now have more authority, access, and influence than any previous Ambassador-at-Large in this role. So that’s really exciting.
“I would encourage listeners to pray that that influence and that access is really used and that he’s able to really step up and be a strong voice on behalf of those who suffer unjustly simply because of their faith.”
Wright says we can also be praying specifically for Brownback and his family during this transition into his new role. “I know that Ambassador Brownback himself is a man of faith. He is a Catholic. He has also attended evangelical services with his family. He is someone who has a deep faith so I would certainly encourage people to pray for strength of faith as he moves into this position.”
The confirmation of an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom is great news. But there is still a lot of work to do.
“Persecution is on the rise. We need to be praying for our brothers and sisters around the world who are targeted because of their faith and praying that they will have a strong advocate for them in this office.”