The voices of individuals who have personally suffered persecution as a result of their religious beliefs or human rights advocacy will be heard at this year's International Religious Freedom Summit.
As reported by the Christian Post, Washington D.C. will host a three-day conference on religious minorities, activists, and policymakers Tuesday.
The said conference aims to build on the momentum created by the two ministerial conferences held by the United States Department for religious freedom. There will be speeches from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the Dalai Lama.
A bipartisan group of legislative representatives will also serve as honorary co-chairs of the International Summit on Religious Freedom.
Some of the persecuted Christians whose cases have gained worldwide attention were among those who confirmed would speak at the event.
The first is Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death after being accused of blasphemy and imprisoned for years.
On June 19, 2009, she was 37 years old when she was taken into custody by authorities. Among a rural population of 1,500 people, her family is one of just three Christian households remaining.
In 2010, she was declared guilty of blasphemy against Islam's prophet Muhammad and condemned to death by the court. Her release and the repeal of the legislation have been demanded by Christians across the world, while radicals in Pakistan continue to urge that she be killed.
Asia Bibi was found not guilty by Pakistan's Supreme Court on October 31, 2018. Approximately seven months after being convicted of blasphemy, she traveled to Canada to be with her children, who were granted refuge there in December 2019.
The second is Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who was incarcerated for two years in Turkey. He is originally from North Carolina and has lived in Turkey for almost 20 years with his wife and three kids. He is the pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, which has around 20 members.
Brunson was imprisoned in 2016 following an attempted military coup in July. He was suspected of being a spy, which he disputed, and faced a 35-year sentence. That's when former VP Mike Pence met Brunson's daughter Jacqueline Furnari, who told him her father had been accused of "dividing and separating Turkey by simply spreading his Christian faith."
Both Pence and former President Donald Trump supported Brunson, sanctioning two high-ranking Turkish officials and slapping taxes on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.
A Turkish court condemned Brunson to three years, a month and a half, but decided that he had spent enough time since his detention in October 2016.
Third is Joy Bishara, a Christian survivor of a horrific Boko Haram kidnapping in Nigeria.
Bishara was one of 276 students abducted by armed Boko Haram militants from a boarding school in Chibok, Borno State, in 2014. She and 55 other escaped by leaping out of the back of the trucks approximately 45 minutes after their abductions.
Both she and Lydia Pogu, a fellow survivor, traveled to the United States as part of the Jubilee Campaign. Bishara and Pogu have both emerged as champions for the persecuted in public venues, seizing the chances that have arisen for them to tell their experiences.
Fourth is Mariam Ibraheem, a Sudanese Christian who was imprisoned and subsequently condemned to death in 2013 for her refusing to renounce her faith. Extremists labeled her an apostate and imprisoned her together with her 9-month-old baby, Martin. She learned she was pregnant while in jail and in May 2014, she gave birth to her daughter, Maya.
Her story captured the world's attention, and many campaigned for her release. Mariam and her children were freed shortly after the birth of Maya and ultimately settled in the United States.
The fifth is Bob Fu, the founder and president of China Aid. In 1989, he participated in the Tiananmen Square protests for freedom and democracy as a student leader. He also served as a house church pastor in Beijing until he and his wife, Heidi, were arrested and imprisoned for two months in 1996 on charges of "illegal evangelism." In 1997, Bob and his wife fled to the United States.
In 2002, they established ChinaAid in order to draw worldwide attention to China's egregious human rights abuses while also promoting religious freedom in the country.
Sixth is Chen Guangcheng, a blind human rights lawyer who self-taught himself and spent four years in jail as a consequence of his efforts exposing human rights violations in China. Chen was exposed to years of persecution and unlawful imprisonment because he advised people on how to fight government abuses in their communities. Chen has subsequently gained worldwide recognition as a symbol of human dignity.
Chen was placed under house arrest after spending four years in jail on what his supporters said were false accusations. He managed to escape in 2012 and ultimately requested refuge in the United States.