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June 6, 2017

Wilberforce A!ert: The Next Generation of Wilberforces

The headlines paint a grim global picture:

War crimes that fall along religious lines may have been committed in the Central African Republic.

Fear remains that ISIS is winning its war.

The newest data show 79 percent of the world’s people now lives in places where there is high or very high persecution.

Every day I see stories like these. It can be depressing. Yet I hear more and more stories where people rise to the challenge supporting the persecuted. For example, in Nigeria, villagers are opening their small homes to those who are displaced simply for not believing the same thing as the Boko Haram terrorist organization.

And here in the U.S., I was able to take part in the story of tomorrow’s religious freedom leaders taking a stand for the persecuted. Two weeks ago, we welcomed 25 students from 10 different colleges, eight states, and three different countries for our second Emerging Leaders Conference. Students gained practical understanding of the theory and practice of religious freedom. They learned about its historic and scriptural basis. They met with a pastor and his wife who have been persecuted in Cuba, and are now advocates for religious freedom. They went to Congress to speak to representatives about the importance of religious freedom.

Most importantly, they stirred a passion for the issue and committed to being activists. Here is what some of them have said after their experience:

“Religious liberty is fundamental to humanity in that it is the foundation of all human freedom … and everyone should have the right to protection under the rule of law, regardless of belief.” - Sequoia Poths

“As the greatest institutional humanitarian organization in the history of the world, the United States has a responsibility to advocate on behalf of these marginalized peoples.”- Marquis Gough

“I believe the freedom to choose your own religion is a fundamental human right. The beauty of choice is what makes humanity so amazing… religion defines so many groups of people.” - Carol Nguyen

These three conference attendees took the next step by joining 21CWI as summer associates.

They are taking on important tasks, such as supporting asset mapping of policies, institutions, and organizations that are vital to defending our First Freedom; documenting atrocities against religious minorities in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, extending an exclusive dataset that is essential to policy engagement with think tanks and leaders; and supporting our work to be a trusted hub that supports other organizations that defend religious freedom through our Quarterly Forum.

As we face increasing threats, people all around the world are responding. Any one of these students could be the next William Wilberforce for religious freedom. We need you to be a part of this effort. You can start by taking some of the actions below.

Take Action:

  1. Watch and share this amazing info-video and see how refugees have travelled around the world, many of them displaced by religious persecution.
  2. Be a part of someone’s story: join the Nigeria Ruth Project to help a displaced student build a future. Only $75 gives them a month of education; $900 pays for a whole year of teaching, food, books and more.
  3. Stand with the people of Nigeria supporting those displaced by Boko Haram. Download and share a meme about Nigeria on Twitter or Facebook. 
Category:
Region: Europe & The Americas
Keywords: emerging leaders,intern,interns,religious freedom,21st Century Wilberforce Initiative,21 Century Wilberforce Initiative,21 Wilberforce,21CWI

Nathan Wineinger

Nathan comes to 21CWI from DAI, an international development firm. As the Director of Policy Relations, he brings 10 years of domestic and international policy, human rights, and coalition building experience working with government agencies, community service organizations, and public media. Nathan holds a Master’s of Public Policy degree from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. in both Economics and Theatre from Washington University in St. Louis.

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The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative is empowering a global movement to advance religious freedom as a universal right through advocacy, capacity building and technology.