April 6, 2017
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) hosted a visit from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed, to Washington, D.C. this week for meetings with civil society representatives and government officials.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council for a maximum of two three-year terms. This individual is tasked with undertaking formal country visits; raising individual cases and systemic issues with states; delivering annual reports to the Human Rights Council and General Assembly; contributing to the development and implementation of international human rights standards; and engaging in advocacy and public awareness efforts.
Mr. Shaheed assumed his mandate November 1, 2016, and was invited to Washington, D.C. by CFI’s Main Representative to the United Nations, Michael De Dora, who also serves as president of the UN Non-Governmental Organizations Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
“Our goal in inviting Mr. Shaheed to D.C. was to promote awareness of his mandate and priorities amongst civil society actors and policymakers,” said De Dora. “We also wanted to ensure Mr. Shaheed was connected to key figures and institutions who may be able to support his efforts.”
Between April 3-5, CFI arranged private meetings for Mr. Shaheed and his advisors with civil society representatives with the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, Religious Freedom Institute, and Freedom House; researchers with the Pew Research Center; and officials with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. CFI also collaborated with Hardwired to arrange meetings with the staffs of members of Congress, including a sit-down with Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), as well as Garry E. Hall, Senior Director of the White House National Security Council for International Organizations and Alliances.
In addition, CFI and Freedom House co-sponsored a public event with Mr. Shaheed, at which De Dora provided welcoming remarks.
From left to right: the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed; Tina Ramirez, Founder and President of Hardwired; Faraz Sanei, Legal Advisor to the Special Rapporteur; and CFI’s Michael De Dora. Not pictured: Rose Parris Richter, Senior Advisor to the Special Rapporteur,