NEWS

October 1, 2020

AVSI at the symposium "Advancing and Defending International Religious Freedom Through Diplomacy"

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, also spoke at the event, which was hosted by Callista Gingrich, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See

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AVSI Foundation participated in the symposium “Advancing and Defending International Religious Freedom Through Diplomacy” organized by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See in partnership with the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, on Wednesday, September 30, in Vatican City. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, spoke at the event, which was hosted by Callista Gingrich, U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

The symposium was divided into two panels: “Diplomatic Tools for Identifying Areas of Concern where Religious Freedom is Threatened” and “Diplomacy and International Cooperation.” Giampaolo Silvestri, AVSI Foundation Secretary General, participated in the second panel alongside Samuel Brownback, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and Monsignor Khaled Akasheh, Bureau Chief for Islam with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

After a short introduction about AVSI’s background, mission, and method, Silvestri reflected on the relationship between development cooperation and religious freedom through experiences in Kenya, Syria, and Iraq.

"Our job is not to talk about or study freedom, but in our daily action among people, we try to create the conditions that let people feel and touch what this freedom means, even in plural societies with different religious components. We try to build communities where people can experience mutual respect and mutual acceptance."

Giampaolo Silvestri, AVSI Foundation Secretary General Tweet

The event was opened by Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Foreign Minister of the Holy See. Before welcoming Pompeo to the stage for his opening remarks, Callista L. Gingrich said that there has never been a most critical time to address and defend religious freedom.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the rhythm of our lives, religious freedom continues to be under attack in every single part of the world,” stressed Ambassador Gingrich. “Promoting and securing the universal right of religious freedom is a shared priority for the United States and the Holy See. Our collaboration with the Holy See provides an opportunity to protect and preserve this fundamental human right.”

This is the second time that Secretary Mike Pompeo visits the Vatican to participate in a symposium about religious freedom. He stated that the mission of defending human dignity and religious freedom remains at the core of American foreign policy.

"There are billions of people today who have always wanted to worship to their conscience, but sadly authoritarian regimes, terrorists are trampling their religious freedom. Statesmen representing democracy must never lose sight of the moral truth and human dignity that makes democracy possible. The very future of religious freedom depends upon these acts of moral witness."

Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State Tweet

Concluding the introduction, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Foreign Minister of the Holy See, said that it should not come as a surprise that the protection and promotion of religious liberty is one of the Holy See’s main priorities.

“The commitment of the Holy See to the defense and promotion of religious freedom is guided by the teaching and engagement of Pope Francis who has continually stressed the importance of dialogue, mutual understanding among people and societies, among those of different religious convictions, or those without,” said Gallagher. “Pope Francis has also always stressed the importance of working together toward peaceful co-existence and reciprocal respect.”

In his closing remarks, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Holy See Secretary of State, prompted panelists and audience to look forward and face the many challenges ahead with faith and commitment:

“It’s time that we reflect more seriously about the roots of intolerance and, in particular, the shrinking public space for dialogue for and with those who practice their beliefs openly,” said Parolin. “I hope that initiatives such as today’s symposium might keep building momentum on the international level so that this fundamental human right can be enjoyed by all.”

watch the symposium