Written by Don Byrd

Today, the 3-day Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by the U.S. State Department got under way. The event brings together government officials and religious leaders from 80 countries “to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.”

Adelle Banks at Religion News Service reports that U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback opened the program by urging the religiously diverse audience to go beyond mere tolerance of religious differences.

“We must move to a place where people genuinely care and love one another, no matter our differences. You must help us get there.”

He listed the faiths represented in the room of some 350 representatives from 80 countries, including Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Baha’is, Yazidis and others.

“We were as inclusive as possible because we wanted to include everyone of every faith or no faith at all, everyone who cares about religious freedom and who will join us in this cause,” said the ambassador nominated by President Trump in July 2017 and confirmed in January 2018. “Religious freedom really, truly is for everyone. It’s a right given by God and it’s a beautiful part of our human dignity.”

You can watch videos from this week’s event at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor You Tube channel, where the program is also being livestreamed.