Written by Don Byrd
Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced a reorganization of the U.S. State Department, including the elimination of several special envoy positions and the expansion of the role of the International Religious Freedom Ambassador-at-Large. The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism will also be retained.
In a letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Bob Corker (R-TN), Tillerson detailed the moves. Here is an excerpt explaining the expanded role of the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom:
The Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF) will continue to be an ambassador-level position confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and will be organized under and report to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J). Additionally, IRF will assume the functions and staff of the U.S. Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs, U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities, U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia.
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement praising the move to retain the anti-Semitism office. Other religious liberty advocates, like Faith McDonnell, religious liberty director for the Institute on Religion & Democracy, reportedly expressed concern over the elimination of the special envoy position assigned to Sudan and South Sudan, which is under scrutiny for threatening the freedom of religious minorities.
In somewhat related news, the Washington Post reports that USAID Director Mark Green urged the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sudan to address those religious liberty threats, during a meeting earlier today.