On July 13-15, 2021, over 1,000 attendees, the leading global voices on religious freedom, came together in person at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. for the inaugural convening of the annual International Religious Freedom Summit (IRF Summit).
“The issue of international religious freedom touches every culture, nation, religion, and political system. At present, almost 80 percent of the world’s inhabitants live in countries where there are high levels of governmental or societal restrictions on religion, and restrictions have been steadily increasing for several years. The implications of this state of affairs are vast,” as stated by the IRF Summit organizers.
UMD – a long proponent for human rights and religious freedom for Macedonians and other marginalized groups – joined the IRF Summit as a sponsor through its informal membership on the IRF Roundtable – a convenor of NGOs and individuals from any and no faith that work for freedom of religion or belief. UMD Fellows, who also participated in the Young Leaders Track for international religious freedom, volunteered throughout the IRF Summit, registering speakers, working with the press, among other tasks.
At the IRF Summit, White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director Melissa Rogers, who UMD has met with in the past, announced that President Biden will be appointing a new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom in the coming weeks. Over the past months, UMD joined with other IRF Roundtable participants in calling for this appointment.
On the final day of the IRF Summit, UMD President Meto Koloski delivered brief remarks during the IRF Roundtable Side Event, calling for the registration of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in Greece and support for the plight of Archimandrite Nikodim Tsarknias who has been jailed, beaten, and ridiculed on public TV. The video of Koloski’s remarks can be found here.