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    Sam Brownback, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, discusses a Holocaust Museum with David Saltiel, president of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki in Athens. VIA TWITTER

Where in the world is Sam Brownback?

The Iola Register

Since he left Kansas to serve as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has kept a busy schedule while traveling the world. That's the short answer to a question posed by George Levans of LaHarpe, who asked The Register, "Whatever happened to Sam Brownback?"

Brownback left Monday for Athens, Greece, to discuss religious freedom with government and religious leaders. 

Today, he’s expected to visit Sofia, Bulgaria to talk about interfaith issues between Orthodox believers and those of other faiths. The rest of the week includes visits to Bucharest, Romania, and Chisinau, Moldova, where on Saturday he’ll attend a Catholic Mass. 

The trip is just one of many Brownback has taken since he was confirmed to the role in late January 2018. He has visited Turkey and Bangladesh, Nigeria, Northern Iraq, Islamabad, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

According to reports from the State Department, Brownback has met with dozens of victims of religious persecution across the world. He has worked with other countries to hire their own religious freedom ambassadors. He also attends various religious conferences in the U.S.

Last summer, Brownback’s office organized a first-of-its-kind Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which brought together members of dozens of religious communities and leaders of more than 80 countries. This year’s event promises to be even larger, Brownback said while promoting the event. 

Brownback could not be reached for this article. Multiple emails to different sources at the Department of State were not returned over the course of about three weeks. However, Brownback provides frequent updates and videos on Twitter, and the State Department provides regular press releases about his trips overseas. 

Via Twitter, Brownback has spoken out against religious attacks across the world, including the mass shooting at a mosque in New Zealand in March and attacks on the Jewish community in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. 

Along with another Kansan serving in the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Brownback frequently uses social media to support Israel and blasts China “for its increasing aggression toward people of faith.”

Religious persecution in China will be a focus of a Religious Freedom Summit July 16-18 in Washington, D.C. Brownback spoke about the issue in a promotional video for the event.

“China is at war with faith but it is a war they will not win. The Chinese communist party doesn’t seem to trust its own people to allow them to choose their own path for their souls. Over a billion people are at stake here,” Brownback said. “Some of the activities taking place: No longer can Muslims name their children Mohammed; no longer can Tibetan Buddhists choose and venerate their own religious leaders as they have for over a thousand years; churches are being destroyed; the Chinese government has arbitrarily detained Muslims in internment camps.”

 

BROWNBACK, who was born in Garnett and grew up on a farm in rural Parker in Linn County, served as Kansas governor from 2011 until 2018. Prior to that, he served as Kansas secretary of agriculture from 1986 to 1993, as a U.S. House representative from 1995 to 1996, then as a Senator from 1996 to 2011, and ran for president as a Republican candidate in 2008.

President Donald Trump tapped him to serve as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom and he was narrowly confirmed by the Senate, 50-49 with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie. Democrats opposed Brownback because of his anti-LGBTQ record, while evangelicals cheered his nomination. He is known as a staunch opponent of abortion rights, overturned protections for LGBTQ workers and supported a travel ban some viewed as an attack on the Muslim community.

He’s the first politician and first Catholic in the ambassador position, which he helped create in 1998 as co-sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act. At the time of his nomination, Brownback pledged to take more aggressive action to combat religious persecution throughout the world. Despite the criticism, Brownback pledged to work for those of all faiths or none. 

 

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