The event was part of a series of discussions held by the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. RFP began in January 2011 with the goal of analyzing religious freedom, a basic human right that is unfortunately restricted in many parts of the world.
The team of scholars examines how religious freedom is related to other fundamental freedoms: its relation to democracy, its role in development, diplomacy, and the struggle against violent religious extremism.
“In these discussions in the Religious Freedom Project, we hope to facilitate provocative and probing conversations on religious freedom because we believe it is extremely important issue today,” said Thomas Farr, director of RFP.
According to Farr, there are two important factors that drive RFP to investigate the idea of religious freedom: first, that religious liberty is important, whether individuals are religious or not; and second, that religious freedom is in global crisis, as 75 percent of the world’s population live in regions where religious freedom is severely restricted.
In RFP’s view, humans are such spiritual beings that without religious freedom, it is impossible to live a truly human life.
With this in mind, Timothy Shah, associate director of RFP, asked Pastor Warren the first question of the afternoon: Why is the topic of religious freedom so important to him?
“Let me start off by saying that religion is far more than worship. If you are truly a religious person, your religion affects every area of your life: how you spend you time, how you run your business, how you spend your money, how you educate your children. You can’t leave your religion at the church or temple door. It has to be allowed in every area of your life,” Warren said.
According to him, religious restrictions are growing around the world, especially in European nations and even in the United States. Pastor Warren emphasizes that this is especially dangerous, since so many of our other rights are based upon the freedom to practice what we believe in.
“If I don’t have the freedom to believe what I want to believe, then freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press are all irrelevant,” Warren said. “And it is so important that we don’t let anyone tear these freedoms away.”