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'Religious freedom is an extremely important right': ICC President speaks ahead of first International Religious Freedom Summit

The first International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit is to take place in Washington D.C. this week.

The Summit was created to increase public awareness and political strength for the IRF movement and will be co-chaired by former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights. 

Jeff King, the President of International Christian Concern (ICC) told Premier that the event is a broad spectrum meeting on religious freedom. 

"So it's not just religious freedom for Christians. That's my particular brand. But there's religious freedom for Muslims and for the Uyghurs in China. The Dalai Lama is going to be a speaker. It's a very broad push to say, look, religious freedom is an extremely important right. So it's why our founders enshrined it in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. If you think about it, religious freedom is a conglomeration of rights. It's association, rule, speech, conscience, thought, and you can see why it's so important. And so the push is to say, well, let's take the momentum that's happening in United States and let's broaden it. Religious freedom is an incredibly potent force for moderation. And for advancement of rights in all countries. It's not a left, right issue. It's just a freedom issue, and a core one, and it's really a great tool to advance democracy."

Reflecting on persecution over the last year, King said Christians are by far the most persecuted group and are seeing rising levels of persecution. He told Premier about what he has indentified as  'a couple of trouble spots' around the world.

"China for decades, was going in the right direction. And then Xi rose to the top, he destroyed all opposition. He's the Emperor for life. He is a complete enemy of Christianity, destroying churches, it's not just Christianity, he hates religion, and he's an enemy," King said.

Another country I'm always pointing people to is Nigeria, Nigeria is a massive problem. You know, 50 to 70,000 Christians have been killed in the last 20 years by radical Islamists. And then in addition to that, you've got 2 million plus farmers that have been pushed off their lands by armed Islamists, they're stealing lands and pushing them south. So I would say that's even the epicenter of persecution."

King added the summit comes at a vitally important time in America.

"The background of this thing is that, this is not a political statement, but under the previous administration, religious freedom was a huge push. And you know it's not going to be part of this administration, it's not going to have the same importance. Again, not a political statement. So we're what we're trying to do is to make sure that this vital right, this amalgamation of rights, just has its proper place internationally and carries on."

The summit will take place between July 13- 15 in Washington D.C.

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