Barnabas Fund was a major sponsor of the first International Religious Freedom Summit (IRF) held in Washington DC from 13 July to 15 July.
Barnabas (known in the United States as Barnabas Aid) was also on the planning and steering committee helping to organise this bipartisan, civil society-led event, which was attended by representatives of multiple organisations and religions from all over the world. There were over 1,000 registered attendees.
Barnabas Fund chaired a half-hour Q & A session with Aasia Bibi which took place on 14 July.
Aasia Bibi was falsely accused of “blasphemy” by Muslim co-workers in June 2009 and subsequently convicted and sentenced to death under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code for defiling the name of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. The conviction was overturned in October 2018.
Later that day Barnabas Fund Chairman John Marsh, on behalf of our International Director Dr Patrick Sookhdeo who was unable to attend due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, spoke on a plenary panel discussion about “Legal Structures Of Persecution And Religious Discrimination”.
Furthermore, on 15 July, Barnabas hosted a side event focusing on Pakistan and the blasphemy law, hearing from Aasia Bibi and Dr Sookhdeo. The side event was reported on here.
A wake-up call to governments everywhere
Dr Sookhdeo pre-recorded a speech which was broadcast during the closing dinner of the Summit, which was very well received.
Dr Sookhdeo urged that “our freedom of conscience must be safeguarded. It must be defended. It must be shared. It must be propagated. For it lies at the heart of who we are - men and women created in the imago dei.”
He continued by urging those leaving the conference to “take this message to the four corners of the world, it must not be with arrogance or force but rather with a love born of God and a humility that come from the Truth that truly sets us free.”
The event included speeches from senators and congressional representatives from both US political parties. Harrowing testimonies from Aasia and others who have suffered at the hands of extremists and oppressive regimes moved and affected those who were present.
The summit was a wake-up call to governments everywhere that the right to religious freedom is in grave danger in so many countries, as the persecution of Christians and other minorities is growing at an alarming rate.