The White House claims that promoting religious freedom around the world is one of its top foreign policy priorities. VOA's Navbahor Imamova talks to Nadine Maenza, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, about how this goal is pursued, specifically in Central Asia.
The Trump Administration is populated by senior figures who are deeply religious, most notably Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who recently gave a widely covered speech on what he called “Christian leadership.” Not surprisingly, these and other administration figures claim that promoting religious freedom around the world is one of their top foreign policy priorities. But long before the Trump Administration took office, the federally chartered U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was a primary instrument of this policy goal. But how does a commission, created by an act of Congress but with no executive power or reach of its own into foreign countries, pursue its objective? In an exclusive interview with VOA’s Navbahor Imamova, the Commission's Vice Chair Nadine Maenza discusses its mission, the commissioners’ engagement with Washington and foreign governments, and how they interact with religious leaders and civil society, including in Central Asia. But given the orientation of the administration and some of the perceptions of it in countries like Uzbekistan, Maenza argues that this entity should not be seen as a “Christian" board, specifically attempting to promote that religion, in particular.