A Report From the Secretary General, Dr. Ganoune Diop
A new phase in the history IRLA began in July when subsequent the retirement of Dr. John Graz, I was entrusted with the mandate of Secretary General of the International Religious Liberty Association. I am grateful to continue the work of Dr. Bert Beach, expanded by Dr. John Graz. I am adding bricks to an edifice that is already well in place with a rich history of achievements. Obviously, this is not a work for soloists; a team of people with various talents is necessary to fulfill our main goals. To this end I have asked Dr. Nelu Burcea, Attorney Dwayne Leslie, Mrs. Bettina Krause and Mrs. Gail Banner to bring their giftedness to IRLA.
I am grateful for the able leadership of our president Ambassador Robert Seiple. I feel privileged to be associated and to partner with him to continue to make IRLA a worthy contributor to the promotion religious freedom. The various functions of IRLA truly benefit from his wide range of experience. In addition to the contributions of many other friends and supporters of IRLA, I am especially grateful for the dedication of our vice-president Rosa Maria Martinez de Codes for her commitment to the work of IRLA. The team that contributes to the meeting of experts program has my deepest thanks. Nick Miller is one of these consistent allies and major contributors.
I would like to thank my associates for their dedicated contributions to the work of IRLA. Dr. Nelu Burcea who joined IRLA in October has already been very active. In addition to his numerous speaking appointments to promote religious freedom since he came to the US, he has also organized the yearly meeting at the Romanian parliament with guests including the prime minister of Romania, the minister of foreign affairs, and the former minister of higher education. Several other dignitaries attended the meeting raising the profile of visibility of IRLA. His work promises to significantly take the work of the IRLA to a higher standing of professionalism and impact. He is the kind of person who influences leaders. We are grateful to have him with us.
Attorney Dwayne Leslie continues his work as our representative in Washington. This year, he worked with OGC to file an amicus (or “friend of the court”) brief advocating for the religious liberty rights of a young Muslim girl who was subject to religious discrimination in an employment decision. The brief was joined by a diverse collection of 14 other religious and public policy organizations. The Supreme Court ruled overwhelmingly, in an 8-1 decision, in favor Samantha Elauf.
Dwayne has reported having played an active role in helping achieve passage of a bill granting a four-year reauthorization of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. They had several meetings on the Hill to help navigate competing bills and other political interests. It was important that USCIRF be reauthorized so that it can continue to highlight the need to promote and protect those who are discriminated against or persecuted for their beliefs.
IRLA is privileged to have Mrs. Bettina Krause as Assistant to the Director for Communication. She is taking the work of IRLA to another level of expertise. She is doing an amazing work to bring up to date our websites, logo and various programs. Her giftedness expands to writing on a regular basis an impressive number of articles to inform a broad readership. She is also responsible for producing TV programs to promote the work of IRLA. Her contributions to preparing the 2017 IRLA World Congress are incontrovertible. The amount of work that goes into this tells about her dedication and diligence.
Gail Banner secures for all of us the administrative work without which we could not be functional in any reasonable way. She is to be commended for her consistent work and her ability to navigate from assignments to assignments coming from all the rest of the team.
Last but not least, I would like to thank our treasurer, Mrs. Daisy Orion, who is very committed to oversee that we keep ourselves within budget. Her creative ways to help us fund our various needs are very much appreciated. Her work for the preparation of our 2017 IRLA World Congress is welcome and appreciated.
IRLA Goals and Engagements with the International Community
A quote from our website may be fitting:
“A primary aspect of the IRLA's work is to ensure that religious freedom has the highest possible visibility on the world scene. To that end, we hold congresses, regional conferences, national symposiums, and local meetings—all aimed at making sure issues of religious freedom remain high on society's agenda. For despite the importance of international covenants and national legislation, without public support for religious freedom, any gains remain at the level of theory rather than practice.”
Accordingly, the overarching goals of our association are the following:
- To provide IRLA with more visibility in the international arena, among international and national organizations and peoples everywhere.
- To continue to position IRLA to a standing of credibility, trust, and relevance. (Our president, Ambassador Seiple, repeatedly reminds us of the importance of being relevant in today’s world and to being deliberate in attending to its needs).
- To be part of the global conversation and expertise on religious freedom issues. IRLA has much to offer. I would like to facilitate the process and the finding of forums to make IRLA’s various contributions a reality for the world to benefit.