The World’s Next Religious Freedom Success Story: Uzbekistan?

Officials make their case in DC during the State Department’s religious freedom ministerial.

Uzbekistan is an unlikely poster child for religious freedom.

Open Doors currently ranks the Central Asian nation as No. 16 on its 2018 list of the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian. The US State Department named Uzbekistan again this year as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC)—a notorious list of religious freedom violators that the former Soviet republic has been included on since 2006.

And yet, four key members of the Uzbekistani government were in Washington on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the State Department’s first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, in order to showcase the country’s newfound commitment to take religious freedom seriously.

“Uzbekistan has a centuries’ old history of respect and tolerance toward religious groups,” said foreign minister Abdulaziz Kamilov. “Our government treats religious values with profound respect. There are 140 nationalities and 16 religious faiths in our country, with operation of more than 2,000 religious organizations. All these stand as our greatest historical, cultural, and civilization heritage.”

Kamilov said the CPC designation marked a low point in Uzbekistani-American relations—the US had shortly beforehand shut down its military bases there—but he believed that the nation’s modernization could bring the two closer together.

“Our country stands ready for a broad international cooperation in this sphere of religious freedom,” he said.

Uzbekistani senator Sodiq Safoyev suggested that behind the government’s policy change was a belief that addressing the issues of the modern world required economic and political transformation, and that religious freedom would …

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Pence and Pompeo Make Big Religious Freedom Pledges

Potomac Declaration and action plan hope to persuade more nations by the second US religious freedom ministerial next year.

America’s first ministerial for international religious freedom will not be its last.

The State Department and USAID will partner on a new program to ensure that public and private aid can rapidly get to persecuted religious minorities.

And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed today the Potomac Declaration, which proclaims religious freedom to be “a far-reaching, universal, and profound human right that all peoples and nations of good will must defend around the globe” [full text below], as well as an accompanying plan of action.

“These documents reassert the United States’s unwavering commitment to promoting and defending religious freedom,” said Pompeo. “They recommend concrete ways the international community and governments can do more to protect religious freedom and vulnerable religious communities.”

Vice President Mike Pence also reiterated the US commitment to religious freedom on the final day of the unprecedented event in Washington DC.

“The United States is also committed to ensuring that religious freedom and religious pluralism prosper across the Middle East as well. To that end, America is launching a new initiative that will not only deliver additional support to the most vulnerable communities, but we trust that it will also embolden civil society to help stop violence in the future,” said Pence as he announced the establishment of the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program.

The Vice President was quick to point out that the organization would partner with “local faith and community leaders,” and that “this support will flow directly to individuals and households most in need of help.”

Pence mentioned that the Trump …

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Interview: Revoice’s Founder Answers the LGBT Conference’s Critics

Orientation is not necessarily sexual, Nate Collins says.

The Revoice Conference, which begins tomorrow, has generated a great deal of conversation among theologically conservative Christians. The gathering, according to its website, is about “supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.” Much of the controversy has swirled around terms used by proponents to describe who the conference is for and what its goals are.

Christianity Today editor in chief Mark Galli asked Revoice founder Nate Collins about the dispute. Collins is former instructor of New Testament interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and a leader at the Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender. He is also author of All But Invisible: Exploring Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Sexuality (Zondervan, 2017).

What exactly is Revoice?

Revoice is an organization putting on a conference, and the idea behind the conference is to provide a place for conservative LGBT Christians, people who are non-straight and perhaps experienced gender dysphoria of some kind, to gather and to be supported and loved in their attempt to live a long and costly obedience. We all believe that the Bible teaches a traditional, historic understanding of sexuality in marriage, and so we are not attempting in any way to redefine any of those doctrines. We’re trying to live within the bounds of historic Christian teaching about sexuality and gender. But we find difficulty doing that for a lot of reasons.

What are the most common misconceptions of Revoice?

Several people try and make the claim that we’re on a slippery …

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Turkey Lets Andrew Brunson Leave Prison

American pastor remains under house arrest until October. But good news comes day after his plight was shared at US religious freedom ministerial.

Yesterday, Andrew Brunson’s daughter described Turkey’s two-year persecution of the American pastor to delegates at the US State Department’s first-ever religious freedom ministerial.

“I cannot tell you how proud I am of my father and what an example of Christ’s love he continues to be to the world as he is wrongly imprisoned for his faith,” said Jacqueline Funari, who is “still waiting for my father-daughter dance” because Brunson’s long imprisonment caused him to miss her wedding.

Today, a Turkish court ruled that Brunson should be moved from Kiriklar prison to house arrest at his home in Turkey. The good news, though partial, drew a standing ovation from the ministerial delegates.

A leader of the Turkish Protestant Church confirmed the news to World Watch Monitor. The same source confirmed that Brunson’s wife is on her way to the prison to meet her husband, and to ensure the prosecutor’s order to release him into house arrest is quickly delivered to the prison.

Aykan Erdemir, a former member of Turkey’s parliament and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, confirmed that Brunson will remain in pre-trial detention until the next hearing, scheduled for October 12.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents Brunson’s family, also confirmed Brunson’s release to his Turkish home.

“This is a critical first step that we believe will result in the freedom of Pastor Brunson so he can return to the United States and be reunited with his family,” stated Jay Sekulow, ACLJ chief counsel. “[President Donald Trump] has played a critical role in securing the freedom of Pastor Brunson. We have worked …

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