(Bonn, 23.02.2017) During their participation in the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, two members of the Central Council of Oriental Christians in Germany (Zentralrat Orientalischer Christen in Deutschland, or ZOCD), namely Volkmar Klein, Member of the German Bundestag, and the Director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF), Thomas Schirrmacher, met with the Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South / Central Asia, Knox Thames. He is presently the highest ranking official working on the topic of religious freedom in the State Department. Thames reported on his most recent trips, while Klein and Schirrmacher reported on the Berlin Conference of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief and initiatives taken by the ZOCD.

In the State Department (from left to right): Thomas Schirrmacher, Knox Thames, Volkmar Klein © IIRF Schirrmacher / Warnecke

In addition, Klein and Schirrmacher met separately and jointly in Washington with numerous politicians, researchers, and experts associated with the topic of religious freedom, consequently with the King of Jordan, Abdullah II. bin al-Hussein, with parliamentary representatives of the Balkans, with the Foreign Minister of Togo, with the Sudanese Ambassador as well as making an annual visit to see Frank Wolf, who represented Arlington in the United States House of Representatives from 1980 to 2015, initiated numerous religious liberty laws, and has founded the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative since entering retirement. The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative is a research institute for matters relating to religious liberty which became known through a report on Nigeria by Nathan Wineigner.

Klein and Schirrmacher both welcomed the fact that President Donald Trump has greatly emphasized the meaning of religious freedom for all religions. At the same time, they expressed their apprehension that the topic could easily be misused and that previous actions could yield contrary results, for instance by limiting the number of legal refugees to 50,000.


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