By Matias Perttula
11/03/2020 Washington DC (International Christian Concern) – Most Americans and folks around the world are looking forward to end of the election cycle in the United States, and perhaps rightfully so. The 2020 election seems to be one of the more emotionally driven and contentious elections in recent history, but regardless of contention, policy will be made in either a continued Trump or a new Biden administration. Policy is where the rubber meets the road and will determine exactly what life will look like under each administration.
In terms of international religious freedom (IRF), recent years have witnessed the elevation of IRF to prominent echelons of governance and policy in terms of United States foreign policy. The issue has not, traditionally, carried much weight with policy leaders nor commanded high importance in bilateral international relationships.
With the new gains made under the current administration, the movement for international religious freedom has secured stronger accountability measures for persecuting countries, individuals, and entities. The development and training of the US diplomatic corps in religious literacy and on the growing problems related to persecution will empower the US to push this fundamental freedom in an effective way. The administration also made significant changes to USAID in helping to drive much needed resources towards efforts that will push for greater religious freedom.
The work of Ambassador Brownback in actualizing the policy positions of the US on IRF issues has seen remarkable success. He built the International Religious Freedom Alliance and the annual Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom, major institutions that support the American commitment to support persecuted communities and individuals who are suffering because of their religious identity.
The election will provide an opportunity for either administration to continue to build on these phenomenal gains and ensure that the United States does not ease the pressure that has been built to push for this fundamental freedom on the international stage. The US should ensure that policy that has been implemented now continues to be instilled in the foreign policy bureaucracy, the executive branch, and in relevant agencies. The US should push for greater financial support for efforts and programs that will marshal this policy on the ground and in all bilateral and multilateral relationships.
While the work of the last four years has been a significant season for advancing this issue, the reality is that more work remains to be completed. The Trump administration and the potential Biden administration have a great opportunity to build on this work and further cultivate a world where persecution diminishes and freedom of religion becomes the norm.
Matias Perttula serves as the Advocacy Director for International Christian Concern where he leads the government relations efforts to mobilize the US government to address issues of persecution in countries where religious minorities are oppressed and the freedom of religion is in decline.