Baptist World Alliance, BWA News Release

Wissam al-Saliby Named President of 21Wilberforce Global Freedom Center

Building on BWA's Legacy of Religious Freedom Advocacy
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(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA, USA – May 2, 2024) Wissam al-Saliby has been appointed President of the 21Wilberforce Global Freedom Center, a Baptist World Alliance (BWA) partnering ministry that seeks to advance religious freedom awareness, training, support and advocacy. Beginning his new role this month, Al-Saliby is a globally-recognized expert in international religious freedom and human rights who brings more than fifteen years of experience in advocating for religious freedom at the United Nations, training and capacity building for human rights in the Middle East and around the world, and strategic leadership and organizational development.

“Religious freedom is a defining value of Baptists and advancing it globally is a central missional commitment of the BWA,” said BWA General Secretary and CEO Elijah Brown. “At a time when 30% of all BWA Baptists face the reality of war, persecution, and extreme hunger, the need is as great as ever. Wissam brings great passion and experience to this role. As one of the first directors within the BWA from the Middle East, I look forward to working with Wissam and in partnership with 21Wilberforce as together we seek to address some of the most pressing challenges in the world.”

Formerly, al-Saliby was the Advocacy Officer and then the Director of the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, for the World Evangelical Alliance, a network of 140 national alliances representing 600 million evangelical Christians. Under his leadership, the Geneva Office has engaged the United Nations in direct advocacy in approximately 20 country situations each year. Al-Saliby has also pioneered new efforts to help national alliances strengthen their religious freedom training and empower them as religious freedom leaders.

Before his work engaging with the United Nations, al-Saliby served as the Development and Partner Relations Manager at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS), which is a ministry of new BWA member partner THIMAR-LSESD. In his role as Manager of Development and Partnership Relations at ABTS, al-Saliby was a member of the leadership team that set the vision of the seminary and helped shape its ministry. In addition to nurturing and cultivating existing relationships, he identified and built new relationships with churches, foundations, and individuals in the United States, Europe, and the Arab World.

A committed human rights leader from the beginning of his career, al-Saliby previously co-founded and managed the Summer School on Law and Armed Conflict in Lebanon. He also served as the National Coordinator and Lead Trainer for Geneva Call, providing training in humanitarian law and human rights. Throughout this role, he traveled across the Middle East region for seven years training numerous multi-faith religious leaders, civil society groups, armed groups, and political parties in strengthening human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

“Wissam brings years of experience advocating for religious freedom for all at the highest levels,” said 21Wilberforce Board Member Knox Thames. “Wissam’s heart for the suffering has been widely recognized, especially his leadership and expertise that brings together meaningful government engagement and substantive grassroots training. With religious persecution spreading like a plague, 21Wilberforce, under the leadership of Wissam and the 21Wilberforce team, will continue to have a profound impact that protects religious freedom around the world and helps many who have faced the pain of persecution.”

Al-Saliby graduated from Lebanese University with a bachelor’s degree in law with Distinction and then earned from the Université Paul Cézanne, France a master’s degree in international law with a specialization in Protection and Human Security.

“It is a privilege and responsibility to join the BWA, a Christian world communion dedicated to serving, equipping and empowering 51 million Baptists worldwide,” said al-Saliby. “The Lord Jesus prayed that his followers would be one as he and his Father are one. The BWA is an embodiment of this unity. I look forward to supporting Baptist leaders around the world as they advocate for greater religious freedom and for the rights and dignity of all people.”

During this ministry transition, the BWA also honors 21Wilberforce founder Randel Everett in his retirement, recognizing his decades of service in the BWA including as President of 21Wilberforce, member of the BWA Executive Committee, and Chair of the 21st Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, in 2015.

“Randel is a remarkable leader whose prophetic navigation has touched the lives of many. His transformational leadership is a legacy of Christ-centered discipleship, entrepreneurial growth in pursuit of the Kingdom of God, religious freedom and witness in the compassion of Jesus, and a generation of leaders shaped by his investment who will follow in the journey he has modeled,” said Brown. “Randel is a friend and mentor, and I stand with many in celebrating his faith-filled leadership.”


The Baptist World Alliance, founded in 1905, is a fellowship of 253 conventions and unions in 130 countries and territories comprising 51 million baptized believers in 176,000 churches. For more than 100 years, the Baptist World Alliance has networked the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ with a commitment to strengthen worship, fellowship and unity; lead in mission and evangelism; respond to people in need through aid, relief, and community development; defend religious freedom, human rights, and justice; and advance theological reflection and leadership development.

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