Do two people of different faiths and backgrounds, from different generations and upbringings, see religious freedom the same way? If there can be differences between them, then what of two people on opposite ends of the globe? Can a world speeding forward on globalization maintain religious freedom for all mankind, whatever that may mean?
A comparative religion event taking place November 3, 2022, at Thomas More University, will feature past and present Ambassadors at Large for International Religious Freedom—Rashad Hussain and Rabbi David Saperstein. Hussain, a Muslim, and Saperstein, a Jew, will discuss comparative perspectives on international religious freedom. While both have held the same position in the U.S. International Religious Freedom office, their varied backgrounds has given both unique perspectives on the subject.
David Saperstein was born in New York in 1947. His father, Rabbi Harold Saperstein, was a civil rights activist, Zionist, and leading congregational rabbi of American Reform Judaism. David Saperstein has continued that tradition of activism, lobbying for 40 years on Capitol Hill as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, chairing multiple national interreligious coalitions including the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, and under President Obama, he was the first Jew to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
Rashad Hussain was born in Wyoming in 1979. His parents were Indian-American immigrants, his father was a mining engineer and his mother was a medical doctor. Hussain took part in national debate competitions in high school, went to college at Chapel Hill where he took philosophy and political science and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and received degrees from the JFK School of Government, Harvard and Yale. Even before he entered law school he was a legislative aide for the House Judiciary Committee and by age 29 he was deputy associate counsel to President Barack Obama. He became U.S. Special Envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and is currently Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
With abortion legislation argued in the courts and discussed at the pulpit, state-based religion in countries like China, and blasphemy laws still on the books in U.N. member states like Sudan, it is a complex space that is not resolved by one person or one nation. For the many working to change the state of religious freedom there is the religious literacy educational program from the Coexist Foundation, the Declaration on the Common Human Values by the Muslim World League, and the work of the multi-faith roundtable sponsored by the Institute for Religious Tolerance, Peace and Justice.
The November 3 “Comparative Perspectives on International Religious Freedom,” event takes place at Thomas More University, a Catholic Liberal Arts University of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky. It has been organized by the university’s Institute for Religious Liberty (IRL). The IRL mission statement is “To advance the American concept of religious freedom as an unalienable right and the protection of this right for all people.”