The correlation between religious freedom and sustainable development has been largely overlooked. Despite its pivotal importance, religious freedom is scarcely addressed within the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and has notably been absent from global policy discussions on international development.

Failure to prioritize and nurture religious freedom may precipitate a resurgence of religious nationalism and extremism. Conversely, safeguarding religious freedom bolsters the prospects for lasting peace and contributes to the advancement of multiple SDGs. 

This one-day conference aims to explore innovative frameworks and strategies for fostering religion-sensitive and inclusive policies and engagements. Additionally, it seeks to provide empirical evidence highlighting the relationship between religious freedom and economic development.

Tune in on June 18 at 9:00 a.m. ET to access the broadcast and exclusive coverage, including a keynote address and panel discussions, of the event.

Opening remarks

Michael Fisch, chair of the Freedom and Prosperity Center’s Advisory Council, and Antonio Zanardi Landi, ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta to the Holy See, each delivered remarks, thanking the organizations that made the event possible and highlighting the role that spiritual well-being plays along with material goods in achieving prosperity goals. 

Keynote remarks

Nazila Ghanea, United Nations special rappoteur on freedom of religion or belief, discussed the importance of bringing renewed focus to achieve sustainable development goals, citing the interplay between development and human rights. She emphasized how religious minorities are among the most marginalized populations in the world, highlighting the need to preserve their rights in development policy.


Integral human development is seen as a Catholic idea but is based on the dignity of the human person- a key concept present across multiple religious traditions. Experts discuss the role religious freedom plays in promoting human development, exploring ways to engage both religious and policy leaders globally on this topic. 
Academics and nonprofit leaders lead a discussion on the link between religious freedom and economic development. The group discusses the role religious freedom plays in economic development on both local and national levels and looks into how religious discrimination overlaps with economic investments and growth being siphoned to one identity group.
Outlined as a community-based approach, interreligious engagement sees religious actors working across religious and belief divides, in partnerships with governments and civil society groups. This engagement is key to promoting religious freedom and sustainable development. Experts discuss theological trends prioritizing interreligious dialogue.
Advocacy of religious freedom and sustainable development suffer from a lack of trust, with perceptions that these concepts are used as a way for Western countries to preach or impose their values on others. Experts analyze how to move past this perception to sincerely engage leaders across the world, exploring the importance of a dignity-based approach to religious freedom. 
Religious freedom is interconnected with human rights and sustainable development goals. But the relationship between the concepts is often overlooked, with religious freedom long being absent from policy conversations on international development. Experts address this discrepancy, discussing how to understand the mutually defining relationship between the right to development and the right to religious freedom. 


Greetings and introductory remarks


Antonio Zanardi Landi, ambassador, the Sovereign Order of Malta to the Holy See

Michael Fisch, chairman, Freedom and Prosperity Center Advisory Council, Atlantic Council, US

Nazila Ghanea, special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, United Nations  

Panel one: An introduction: The global crisis of religious freedom through the prism of integral human development


Arch. Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for relations with states, Holy See

“The Promotion of Religious Freedom and Integral Human Development: The view of the Holy See”

Scott Appleby, dean, Keough School of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame, US

“Integral Human Development: What it is and how it contributes to a better understanding and implementation of Religious Freedom”

Silvio Ferrari, emeritus professor of law and religion, University of Milan & Honorary President, the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies, Italy

“What is the contribution of Freedom of Religion or Belief to Integral Human Development?”



Fabio Petito, professor of religions & international affairs, University of Sussex, UK/Italy

Panel two: Religious freedom & global development: Evidence, challenges and opportunities from the perspective of integral human development


Yawovi Jean Attila, professor of canon law, Pontifical Urbanian University, Italy/Togo

Brian Grim, president, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, US

Joseph Lemoine, director, Freedom and Prosperity Center, Atlantic Council, US

Katherine Marshall, executive director, World Faiths Development Dialogue, Georgetown University, US

Adrian Pabst, professor of politics and University of Kent & Deputy Director, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, UK



Dan Negrea, senior director, Freedom and Prosperity Center, Atlantic Council, US

Panel three: An interreligious conversation: Integral human development, human dignity and religious freedom


Peter Mandaville, senior advisor for faith rngagement, United States Agency for International Development, US

Mahan Mirza, executive director, Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, University of Notre Dame, US 

Sharon Rosen, global director for religious engagement, Search for Common Ground, Jerusalem, Israel

Brett Scharffs, Rex E. Lee chair and professor of law, Brigham Young University, US

Richard Sudworth, secretary for inter religious affairs, Archbishop of Canterbury, UK



Michael D. Driessen, associate professor of political science, John Cabot University; director, Rome Summer Seminars on Religion and Global Politics, Italy

Panel four: From idea to policy impact: Looking at religious freedom through the lens of integral human development –what difference does this make?


Rajeev Bhargava, director, Parekh Institute of Indian Thought, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, India  

Fiona Bruce, UK Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, UK 

Rocco D’Ambrosio, professor of political philosophy, the Pontifical Gregorian University, Italy

JeanChristophe Peaucelle, advisor for religious affairs, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, France

Mariz Tadros, professor of politics and development & director, The Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development, Institute of development studies, UK/Egypt



Scott Appleby, dean, Keough School of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame, US

Religious freedom and integral human development: Changing the conversation


Msgr. Anthony Onyemuche Ekpo, under-secretary, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Holy See

Prof. Fabio Petito, professor of religion & international affairs, University of Sussex, UK/Italy

Amb. Robert Řehák, chair of the international religious freedom or belief alliance, Czech Republic 

HH Khaleefa Muhammadu Sanusi II, 14th rmir of kano & grand khaleefa of the tijjaniya sufi order, Nigeria



HE Count Riccardo Paternò di Montecupo, grand chancellor of the Sovereign Military Order of  Malta



Alison Hillard, senior program director, Wilton Park, UK


At the presence of HMEH the Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Frà John T. Dunlap 



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The Freedom and Prosperity Center aims to increase the prosperity of the poor and marginalized in developing countries and to explore the nature of the relationship between freedom and prosperity in both developing and developed nations.