Statement from USAID Acting Administrator John Barsa On Advancing International Religious Freedom

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

We are grateful for the President's leadership in advancing religious freedom around the world, and we are honored USAID will play a critical role in the implementation of the Executive Order he signed earlier today. Americans have always believed our first freedom is the freedom of religion, and it is a key component of our national security strategy. Whether in response to genocide committed against Christians and Yazidis in Northern Iraq, or the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya in Burma, the institutional culture regarding international religious freedom has become a top priority at USAID.

I am pleased to announce that Samah Norquist, USAID's Senior Advisor on Religious Freedom and Pluralism in the Middle East, will serve as my lead in managing and directing USAID's contribution to the President's Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom. Samah established and has ably managed USAID's Genocide Recovery and Presecution Reponse in Northern Iraq to help Christian and Yazidi victims of ISIS genocide. She has also advanced USAID's religious freedom work in the Middle East Bureau. In this new role, she will expand that success across the Agency.

Samah brings to this job decades of experience working in international affairs and religious liberty issues in the Middle East and globally. Her counsel has been a tremendous value to me personally, and it will be essential as the protection of religious and ethnic minorities becomes a greater and essential part of our work at USAID.

Promoting religious liberty is a pillar of our new multi-year country strategies. We recently launched a specialized training program on strategies and tactics for supporting religious freedom, as called for in the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which codifies religious freedom as a U.S foreign policy priority. The training is mandatory for our foreign service officers.

Last updated: July 17, 2020

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