FOB at the International Religious Freedom Summit 2023

Alessandro Amicarelli


The 2023 International Religious Freedom Summit organised by the Coalition for International Religious Freedom was held in Washington DC from January 31st to February 1st, 2023.

The Summit co-hosts Amb. Sam Brownback - Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, 2018-2021 and Co-Chair of IRF Summit 2021Steering Committee and Dr Katrina Lantos Swett - President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Co-Chair of IRF Summit 2021 Steering Committee welcomed hundreds of attendees that together with speakers joined from all over the world to foster the religious freedom discourse and improve lives of millions on the planet.

The gathering had a busy schedule over two days with several speakers over plenaries and breakout sessions on specialist areas of interest.

The topics covered ranged from Women and Religious Freedom, to IRF and US Foreign Policy, from IRF Education and the Youth to Fostering IRF in New Democracies to a series of Breakout sessions on the Denial of IRF and on Defending, Documenting and Developing IRF.

The full programme is available on the dedicated website and can be downloaded here. The full list of speakers is also available here.

The European Federation was represented by the president Alessandro Amicarelli, and a member of the Scientific Committee Marco Respinti of CESNUR and Bitter Winter was among the speakers too.

Some International special guests included Fiona Bruce MP, Special envoy of the UK Prime Minister for Freedom of Religion and Belief, and Jan Fiegel, First-ever Special Envoy for Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union, IRF Secretariat Global Leadership Council.

Our Scientific Committee member Marco Respinti presided and moderated the TAI JI MEN SPECIAL EVENT on Collaborative Actions Against Judicial and Tax Persecution by State Power: The Tai Ji Men Case which presented the long-lasting case of persecution of Tai Ji Men in the democratic Taiwan by means of undue tax billing aimed at destroying the peaceful organisation in Taiwan. Despite winning all court cases and having received compensation for unlawful detention of some of its members, Tai Ji Men is still facing severe issues in Taiwan which lasted for the last nearly 27 years.

Tai Ji Men speakers

Speakers at the Tai Ji Men session. Second and third from right are Marco Respinti and Alessandro Amicarelli.

The session reconstructed the story of the legal battle and reported about other aspects of the Tai Ji Men case also including the stereotyping role of the media that fostered a defamation campaign against Tai Ji Men that was accused in court of raising goblins together with being accused of tax evasion which the court completely cleared ruling in favour of Tai Ji Men and its members at all judicial levels.

Our president focussed on the relevance and importance of human rights work to support minority groups labelled in some communities including also by some governments and prosecutors as sects or cults being stereotyped and scapegoated with fantasy allegations including the raising goblins of which the prosecutor accused Tai Ji Men of being responsible for.

Other examples he mentioned included several Christian denominations, the Unification movement, the church of Scientology and Jewish and Muslim organisations targeted for no reason by media and public bodies too. He emphasised the role of the US government to advance freedom of religion and belief for everyone, regardless of whether or not they identify as religious or spiritual people and regardless of their beliefs.

Networking sessions aimed at making new links among likeminded people have occurred throughout the two days of the Summit and even beyond at the gathering for the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB) that our president was invited to attend.

The National Prayer Breakfast (NPB), which is an event completely different from the IRF Summit, is an invitation only event originated in 1953 when President Eisenhower addressed the attendees and the tradition lasted until this year with President Biden making his speech at the occasion of the NPB.

Despite being an event with strongly Christian roots, which is organised by The Fellowship Foundation, in fact a Christian organisation, the NPB is inclusive and sees yearly the participation of individuals also from the Jewish and Muslim communities and others too.

The NPB is aimed at praying for and wishing good to the leaders of America and of the world in a spirit of true friendship and brother-sisterhood.

Special guests of the NPB 2023 were their Majesties the King and Queen Abdullah of Jordan that made moving speeches.

In his keynote speech King Abdullah said that to achieve peace: “we need our faith: the moral imagination to believe in a better, more just world” and that “We need the will to see our common humanity, rise above divisive rhetoric, and build the mutual trust our future desperately needs".

Queen Rania of Jordan highlighted the importance and significance of prayer while adding that "religion isn’t just about who we are, but what we do and how we do it" and that "Our win doesn’t need to be someone else’s loss. And being right doesn’t mean that the other side is wrong — only that we need other points of view to see a multi-dimensional picture".

The event was held on February 1st and 2nd, 2023 at the Washington Hilton Hotel where it is held annually the first Thursday of February since the 1980's.