FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – August 3, 2021)
Building upon the ministry’s long history of advocacy in the area of religious freedom, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) stands in support of the nomination of Rashad Hussain as the new United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
Currently serving as the Director of Partnerships and Global Engagement at the U.S. National Security Council, Hussain is the first Muslim to be nominated for the role. During the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, Hussain served as U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), U.S. Special Envoy for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, and Deputy Associate White House Counsel. In these roles, he collaborated with the United Nations, foreign governments, and civil society organizations to expand strategic partnerships and spearheaded efforts to counter antisemitism and protect religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries. His appointment to the new role is still to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
“The nomination of Rashad Hussain, who brings a depth of experience across all three branches of the US government and a wide array of faith-based initiatives including Baptist-Muslim conversations, is a strategic development. I welcome the nomination of the first Muslim American to this key position, and look forward to serving alongside Special Envoy Hussain who is a seasoned advocate for religious freedom for all,” said Elijah M. Brown, BWA General Secretary. “I join with many others in urging Congress to quickly confirm Special Envoy Hussain to this Ambassadorship as many – especially in light of the ongoing global pandemic – face unprecedented restrictions as they seek to live out their faith convictions.”
Roy Medley, General Secretary Emeritus of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) and member of the BWA Commission on Interfaith Relations, has worked firsthand with Hussain.
“President Joseph R. Biden’s nomination of Rashad Hussain as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International religious Freedom brings to that position one well-known by the U.S. Baptist family for his personal engagement in our national dialogue with the Muslim community,” said Medley. “Mr. Hussain has long been an international advocate for religious liberty as a basic human right and has won our respect and our support as Baptists. I welcome his nomination to this critical position.”
The importance of global religious freedom advocacy remains as needed as ever as evidenced by the BWA’s recent Vulnerability Index, which highlights that 24% of all BWA Baptists face significant threats to religious freedom. Through the work of BWA Commissions and the 21Wilberforce Global Freedom Center, the BWA remains committed to strategic partnerships with leaders around the world to work together in defense of religious freedom, human rights, and justice.
Jennifer Hawks, a member of the BWA Commission on Religious Freedom who also serves as Associate General Counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), noted the importance of the role. She said, “The U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom is a crucial member of the U.S. diplomatic team charged with promoting and defending religious freedom for all people around the globe. Rashad Hussain can build on the good work of previous ambassadors, including Gov. Samuel Brownback, Rabbi David Saperstein, and the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook. As a BWA Commission member, I hope to work with Ambassador Hussain to confront blasphemy laws that criminalize religious belief, mass kidnappings from religious schools, bans on religious clothing, and the myriad of other ways governments around the world persecute religious and nonreligious individuals within their borders.”
Prior to his service during the Obama Administration, Hussain worked on the House Judiciary Committee, worked as a judicial law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and was an Associate Counsel to the Obama-Biden Transition Project. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School as well as Master’s degrees in Public Administration (Kennedy School of Government) and Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University.