The IIRF International Director, Dennis P. Petri, PhD, was recognized for his contribution to the advancement of religious freedom when he was granted the “Order of Merit” on July 2, 2021, by the Governor of the Department of Meta (a local government in Colombia). Dr Petri and his team have been involved in many research, training and advocacy projects in Colombia and the region for over 10 years. This is a public recognition of the IIRF and its continued efforts to ‘promote religious freedom for all faiths from an academic perspective’.
Dr Petri was bestowed this honor, together with the five other panelists, at a conference held in July to celebrate the National Day of Religious Freedom in Colombia, by three entities: the Institute of Human Rights and Religious Freedom of Zion International University, the Secretariat of Human Rights and Peace of the Government of the Department of Meta (Colombia), and Fundación Resiliencia Colombia. The theme of the event was: “The Social Leadership of Religious Women.” Dr Petri spoke on: “Academic perspectives on the contribution of women to religion and society and as societal leaders.” Having been broadcast via various digital and television channels, the conference reached thousands of people around the globe.
It is important to highlight that religious freedom is not only an issue that impacts church-state relations or even Protestant-Catholic relations. It involves many other dimensions that do not always get sufficient visibility, such as organized crime, indigenous communities and secular intolerance.
Religious freedom is an issue that deserves attention in Latin America, and quite rightly, an increasing number of political and religious authorities are taking note of it. It is only now that religious groups in the region are beginning to scratch the surface; and hence, the ongoing contributions made by IIRF and Dr Petri continue to add immense value to the cause.