Global Leaders Institute Hosts a Delegation of Religious Leaders at United Nations Conference

Story By: George Anthony, Head of Mater Dei Prep Global Leaders Institute

On Friday, March 1st, The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations hosted a conference at the United Nations headquarters on the status of global religious freedom and combatting religious persecution.

Ashton Benavides MDP’21, Sarah Dolan MDP’21, Grace Donohue MDP’21, Elizabeth Sheridan MDP’20, Karen Nortz MDP’20, Joseph Stanton MDP’20, Perry Merse MDP’19, Ishan Sharma MDP’19, Cash Zheng MDP’20, Alexis Lombardo MDP’21 and Rose Petry MDP’21 were members from the Mater Dei Prep Global Leaders Institute and Pathways To Peace representatives that had the opportunity to attend this prestigious conference with a delegation of religious leaders from the Monmouth County area.

Kelsey Zorzi, President of the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, stated “Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. There has been a global increase in the disregard for the fundamental right to religious freedom in recent years that includes harassment, violence, and even genocide. It is vital that the international community begins to actively counter this. This must start with each state ensuring that their laws, as well as social practices, are in line with their commitments to religious freedom under international law.”

“Because of the attacks the world has witnessed in recent years against various groups of religious believers, the protection of the right to religious freedom must be one of the most urgent responsibilities of the international community,” said Monsignor Tomasz Grysa on behalf of Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Ambassador Brownback spoke about the need to work together and bring down the “iron curtain of religious persecution.” He encouraged immediate change. “Eighty percent of the world’s population lives in a religiously restricted atmosphere. How can we tolerate this continuing situation? We need a global movement of religious freedom.”

George Anthony, Pathways To Peace UN Representative and Head of the Mater Dei Prep Global Leaders Institute, addressed the panel regarding the importance of addressing religious persecution as well as conflict transformation and the value in establishing programs similar to the Mater Dei Prep Global Leaders Institute. Programs similar to the Mater Dei Prep Global Leaders Institute will help build a network of resources and workshops between civil society and organizations supported by Ambassador Brownback and Dr. Thomas Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute.

Dr. Thomas Farr is a leading authority on international religious freedom and has served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Foreign Service for 28 years. He serves as a consultant to the U.S. Catholic Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace; on the boards of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Christian Solidarity Worldwide-USA, Alexander Hamilton Society, and the National Museum of American Religion. Farr teaches regularly at the U.S. Foreign Service Institute. You can see Dr. Farr’s remarks to Mr. Anthony and the students of the Global Leaders Institute in the following video (fast forward to 1:19:35 and 1:29:50).

“I was blessed to part take in this eye-opening experience. In my opinion, nothing is better than having the opportunity to sit in a global conference and witness the discussion of national issues. A great exertion of unity filled my heart while watching nations come together to fix global issues as one unit. When there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved,” said Ashton Benavides MDP’21.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Nigeria took a deep interest in the Mater Dei Prep Global Leaders Institute curriculum and would like to bring components of its work to students in Nigeria.

Monsignor Franco, who worked closely with Bishop Fulton Sheen, was also impressed by students of The Global Leaders Institute and spent a portion of his time engaging many of the students in dialogue.

Religious leaders from the community who attended the conference with The Global Leaders Institute were Dennis Marshall, St. James Parish Evangelical Outreach Coordinator; Joline Rukab, International Journalist and Aviator from St. Catherine parish; Craig Palmer, Principal of St. Mary's School; Pastor Tim Mercaldo, Gateway Church; Bryan Scotton, morality and religion teacher at Mater Dei Prep; John Schultheis, St. Mary’s School and William Large, Right to Life Coordinator at St. Mary's Parish.

Rose Petry MDP’21 stated, “The Holy See conference really opened my eyes to the many religions around the world. In a way, without a belief in a religion, it makes us half-human and people are taking away that freedom to many countries today. God does not want his good name to be used in places of violence and discrimination; religious freedom should start with peace and should provide people with a sense of hope. The path for the impact of religious freedom is not just wanted, it is needed!"


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