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High hopes for new ambassador for religious freedom

by Tola Mbakwe

US Senators narrowly approved Sen Sam Brownback, who's the current governor for the state of Kansas.

The Senate vote split on partisan lines (49-49), which meant that Vice President Mike Pence was needed to cast the deciding vote to confirm his nomination.

Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, has welcomed the appointment, saying Sen Brownback is a Christian and has shown a passion for religious freedom for a while.

When asked what he expects from the new ambassador, Thomas told Premier: "The ambassador should travel to countries where there are abuses of religious freedom and make it known that the US is watching.

"Countries don't like to be shamed for religious freedom abuses and I think Sen Sam Brownback has got the seniority to actually make a difference in this role."

Brownback, who will end his seven year post as governor, was the centre controversy when he was nominated by US President Donald Trump for the role.

Lawmakers and campaigners have expressed concern that Brownback's Republican and Christian Conservative views will infringe on same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

One Democratic senator, Robert Menendez, said he believes Brownback will also focus only on protecting Christian minorities.

Thomas told Premier it's almost "unthinkable" that Brownback would do that.

"Most incumbents of this role have been Christian and every one of them has spoken up for all religious faiths," he said.

"The last incumbent, Ambassador David Saperstein, he was Jewish, but he focused more on Christians than anything else because he said Christian persecution in the world was the biggest and needed to be addressed.

"We will see Sen Sam Brownback addressing Christian issues, but I don't think for one moment he will ignore religious minorities."

Thomas also told Premier he hopes Sen Brownback works on improving American foreign policy while in the position.

"Over the years that hasn't always happened," he said.

"What we have seen very often is some ambassadors have travelled to particular countries and have seen what I would call 'first aid successes'.

"They've seen people released from prison maybe, [but] it's not really had an impact on American foreign policy.

Listen to Premier's Tola Mbakwe speaking with Mervyn Thomas here:

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