Center for Religious Freedom

Founded in 1986, and headquartered at Hudson Institute since January 2007, the Center for Religious Freedom promotes religious freedom as a component of U.S. foreign policy by working with a worldwide network of religious freedom experts to provide defenses against religious persecution and oppression.

Since its inception in 1986, the Center has sponsored investigative field missions, reported on the religious persecution of individuals and groups abroad, and undertaken advocacy on their behalf in the media, Congress, State Department and White House.

Religious freedom faces difficult new challenges. Recent decades have seen the rise of extreme interpretations of Islamist rule that are virulently intolerant of dissenting voices and other traditions within Islam, as well as other faiths. Many in the policy world still find religious freedom too “sensitive” to raise. But since 9/11, the link between America’s national interests and its ideals has never been clearer.

When U.S. policy falls short, the Center for Religious Freedom works to speak up for the promotion of religious freedom and the defense of persecuted believers. During the Cold War, the Center focused on helping religious believers persecuted under Communism. Today, while it continues to press for religious freedom in the remnant communist states of China, North Korea and Vietnam, it is increasingly engaged in ensuring that American policymakers defend the principle of religious freedom and believers who are persecuted purely for their religious beliefs in the Muslim world. These persecuted believers include Christians, Jews, Mandeans, Yazidis, Baha’i, Ahmadiyya, and others, as well as Muslim minorities and dissident reformers who find themselves condemned for the religious crimes of blasphemy and apostasy.

Board of Advisors

R. James Woolsey is co-chair of the Committee on The Present Danger. He was chairman of the board of Freedom House when it released Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques and he authored its foreword. He has practiced law for 22 years and has held a variety of senior government positions, including service as Director of Central Intelligence from 1993 to 1995. He is now a consultant.

Zainab Al-Suwaij is the co-founder and executive director of the American Islamic Congress (AIC). She works with the Anti-Defamation League and Facing History and Ourselves, and serves on Connecticut’s Hate Crimes Advisory Board. Al-Suwaij has testified before the Senate, works regularly with various congressional leaders, and has briefed the President and Secretary of State. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Since 2003, Al-Suwaij has worked in Iraq to strengthen women’s rights and help rebuild the Iraqi education system. She currently leads the State Department-funded Iraqi Women’s Educational Institute, which trains female civil society activists in principles of democracy and civic leadership. Al-Suwaij co-founded the Iraqi Women Higher Counsel which successfully lobbied the Iraqi Interim Governing Council to mandate 25 percent of parliamentary seats for women. She also works with Women Waging Peace.

Joseph Ghougassian is the first naturalized U.S. citizen from the Middle East to become a U.S. Ambassador. He served in Qatar, was White House Aide to President Reagan in the Office of Policy Development, and was Peace Corps Director in Yemen. In 2003 he was the Special Envoy to Kirkuk on property disputes, and CPA Deputy Senior Advisor in the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education. Currently, he is Chief of Party in a USAID-funded project in National Capacity Development for Iraqi civil servants in public management. Born of Armenian parents, he received his education in Egypt, Lebanon, Rome, and Belgium, and earned a law degree in the United States. Author of several books, he has lectured extensively around the world on international affairs, diplomacy, law, politics, philosophy, and psychotherapy. While U.S. Ambassador in Qatar he helped persuade its government to lift a 14-century prohibition on the practice of Christianity and non-Muslim religions. In recognition of this achievement, Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him a Vatican knighthood with the rank of Commander in the Order of St. Gregory the Great.

Mary Habeck, Associate Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University, teaches courses on military history and strategic thought at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Before joining SAIS, she was a professor in Yale University’s history department for eleven years. She is the author of Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror and Storm of Steel: The Development of Armor Doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union, 1919-1939. She has co-edited two volumes on the First World War and the Spanish Civil War. She is currently working on a second book on the war on terror entitled The Jihadist Way of War.

John “Jack” Joyce is president of the International Construction Institute, a Rome-based NGO working in developing countries and Central and Eastern Europe. Previously he was president of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers BAC from 1979 until 1999. He is currently a member of the Advisory Committee on Labor Diplomacy to the President and the Secretaries of State and Labor. Joyce was a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council from 1984 to 1999, and served as chairman of its Committee on National Defense, and on the boards of the AFL-CIO institutes on Latin America, Africa, and Asia. He was also Labor Chair of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee on the Application of Standards, Chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Labor Committee, Labor vice-chair of the Center for National Policy, and Co-chair of the Central American Democracy Watch. He was on the boards of the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute, and the Commission on Central American Reconstruction and Redevelopment. Additionally, he has served on the board of the Harmon Fellowship Program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and the National Academy of Sciences Building Research Board. President Reagan appointed him to the Presidential Commission on Collective Bargaining and President Clinton to Presidential Missions to Poland and El Salvador as well as the Labor Diplomacy Committee.

Rebiya Kadeer, one of China’s most successful businesswoman in the mid-1990s, is an advocate for the rights of the Uyghur people in East Turkestan (or Xinjiang Province) in northwest China. She established a multimillion-dollar trading company and a department store in Urumchi, and worked to provide assistance and opportunities to disadvantaged Uyghurs, especially through her movement to empower women to start their own businesses. Originally held up as a model of Uyghur success and philanthropy, she fell from favor with the PRC government after she began calling for an end to its hard-line policies against the Uyghurs and a lifting of discriminatory restrictions on their cultural and religious expression. In 1997, Kadeer was stripped of her membership in both the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and forbidden to travel abroad. She was arrested in 1999 while on her way to meet with a visiting U.S. Congressional delegation and, following a secret trial, was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in March 2000. She spent two years in solitary confinement. In response to international pressure, she was then released from prison and sent to the United States, where she was granted refugee status. Many of Kadeer’s eleven children and other family members have been persecuted by PRC authorities in retaliation for her human rights advocacy. In 2006, she was elected to the presidency of the Uyghur American Association, which works to support the right of the Uyghur people to use peaceful, democratic means to determine their own political future, as well as to the presidency of the World Uyghur Congress, which represents the interests of the Uyghur diaspora.

Firuz Kazemzadeh is the former secretary for external affairs of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. He is professor emeritus at Yale University, having taught Russian history there from 1956 until his retirement in 1992. During his tenure at Yale, he also served variously as director of graduate Russian and Eastern European Studies; chair of the Committee on Middle Eastern Studies; and director of graduate studies in History. He is the author of several books relating to Russia and Central Asia.

Theodore Roosevelt “Ted” Malloch is chairman and founder of the Spiritual Enterprise Institute and also chairman and CEO of The Roosevelt Group, a strategic management and thought-leadership company. Malloch has been a senior fellow of The Aspen Institute, where he previously directed its national seminars. He served on the executive board of the World Economic Forum, which hosts its renowned yearly “summit” in Davos, Switzerland. He has held an ambassadorial-level position in the United Nations (1988-92); headed consulting at Wharton-Chase Econometrics; worked in international capital markets at Salomon Brothers, Inc.; and served in senior policy positions at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and in the U.S. State Department. He has authored numerous articles and books, including The Renewal of American Culture and the Pursuit of Happiness (with Scott Massey) in 2006.

Richard Land has served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission since 1988. In 2005, Land was featured in Time magazine as one of the “Twenty-five Most Influential Evangelicals in America.” In 2004, he was recognized by National Journal as one of the ten top church-state experts “politicians will call on when they get serious about addressing an important public policy issue.” He is the host of two nationally syndicated radio programs, For Faith & Family and For Faith & Family’s Insight.

Vo Van Ai is a distinguished Vietnamese political activist, journalist, historian and poet, living in exile in Paris. He is founder and President of Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam, an organization to promote Vietnamese culture, and editor of Quê Me (Homeland), a Vietnamese-language magazine on democracy, human rights and culture published in Paris since 1976. He is the founder and president of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, a Paris-based monitoring organization. He directs the International Buddhist Information Bureau, and is the international spokesman for the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, Vietnam’s traditional Buddhist Church, which is banned in Vietnam today. He is also president and co-founder of Forum Asia Democracy, a private movement to promote democracy and the rule of law in Asia. Vo Van Ai is a member of the International Steering Committee of the Non-Governmental Process of the Community of Democracies. Arrested and tortured at the age of 11 for participating in the resistance movement against French colonial rule, he began to study Buddhist Sutras in prison and decided to devote his life to the pursuit of social justice and freedom through the Buddhist path of compassion and non-violence. In 1964, he began campaigning for a peaceful solution to the Vietnam War, and has monitored human rights since the communist unification of his homeland in 1975. He drew up the first map of Vietnamese reeducation camps, and launched a campaign that led to the release of hundreds of thousands of religious and political prisoners. In 1978 he helped initiate a campaign that led to the launch of the “Ile de Lumiere,” the first rescue ship dedicated to helping escaping Vietnamese “boat people.” He now runs a weekly radio broadcast on democracy to Vietnam, and regularly testifies before the United Nations, the European Parliament, and the U.S. Congress about human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam.

George Weigel, a senior fellow of the Washington-based Ethics & Public Policy Center, is a Roman Catholic theologian and one of America’s leading commentators on issues of religion and public life. He has authored or edited 17 books, including The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism; Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II; and The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America and Politics without God. He is a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News, and his weekly column is syndicated to 60 newspapers around the United States.

Policy Center News

Nina Shea quoted in Aleteia on Pakistan’s blasphemy law

Nina Shea quoted in Christian Post on the persecution of Middle East Christians by Islamic Extremists

Nina Shea quoted in Washington Times on terrorism in Pakistan

Nina Shea quoted in Aleteia on kidnapped Christians in Syria and Iraq

Samuel Tadros quoted in Algemeiner on the withdrawing of Alaa Abdel Fattah’s Sakharov Prize nomination

Hudson Institute event on one girl’s escape from Boko Haram featured in U.S. News and World Report

Nina Shea quoted in Fox News on religious cleansing in Saudi Arabia

Nina Shea quoted in Associated Press on the Islamic State and the plight of religious minorities

Paul Marshall quoted in New York Times on the persecution of Iraq’s religious minorities

Nina Shea quoted in Daily Caller on the dwindling number of Christians in the Middle East

Nina Shea quoted in National Review Online on the plight of the Yazidis in Iraq

Paul Marshall quoted in ABC Online (Australia) on terrorists targeting Christians

Paul Marshall quoted on WND on the U.S. government’s stance on religious persecution abroad

Nina Shea quoted in Aleteia on Meriam Ibrahim’s persecution in Sudan

Paul Marshall quoted in Wall Street Journal on the persecution of Christians worldwide

Paul Marshall quoted in Christian Post on the contemporary persecution of Christians

Nina Shea quoted in The American Conservative on the threat of ISIS to Iraq’s Christians

Nina Shea quoted in National Catholic Register on the role of the papacy in religious freedom

Nina Shea quoted in Religion.dk (Denmark) on Christianity in the Muslim World

Samuel Tadros quoted in The Jerusalem Post on the elections in Egypt

Nina Shea quoted in The Telegraph on apostasy from Islam

Nina Shea quoted in WorldNetDaily on the U.S. State Department’s understanding of Boko Haram

Paul Marshall quoted in Christian Post on Boko Haram and radical Islam

Samuel Tadros quoted in Al-Monitor on Hamdeen Sabahi and the election in Egypt

Nina Shea quoted in The Economist‘s Eurasmus blog on Boko Haram and Nigeria

Samuel Tadros quoted in Christianity Today on Western involvement in the Egyptian crisis

Nina Shea quoted in Catholic News Agency on the Boko Haram kidnappings

CRF’s Nina Shea and a broad coalition of religious freedom advocates release a landmark Pledge of Solidarity and Call to Action on behalf of Christians and other small religious communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.

Samuel Tadros quoted in World Affairs Journal on Egyptian anti-Semitism

Samuel Tadros quoted in World Affairs Journal on Egypt and the Jewish people

Lela Gilbert quoted in National Catholic Register on the inclusion of persecuted Christians during prayer at mass

Paul Marshall quoted in Voice of America on attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt

Nina Shea quoted in Christianity Today on religious freedom in Vietnam

Samuel Tadros quoted in Jerusalem Post on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Paul Marshall quoted in The Washington Times on the persecution of Christians

Samuel Tadros quoted in National Review Online on Islamists

Nina Shea quoted in Christian Science Monitor on Syrian Christians

Rep. Frank Wolf (VA) cites work of Nina in U.S. House floor speech calling on USG to do more to protect Christians in Syria.

Nina Shea quoted in Deseret News on a religious freedom envoy for religious minority groups

Samuel Tadros quoted in Tel Aviv Notes on Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Writing in the WSJ, Senator Marco Rubio names Persecuted: The Global Assault On Christians (ThomasNelson) his “favorite book of 2013.”

Nina Shea’s work in promoting religious freedom cited in the New York Times.

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