March 4, 2009, 12:00 - 2:00 PM - Hudson Institute, Washington, D.C. Headquarters
The Center for Religious Freedom
held a roundtable luncheon discussion(on the record)
Qatar: A Case Study in Expanding Religious Toleration
Ambassador Joseph Ghougassian
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Nina Shea & Hon. Joseph Ghougassian
The Hon. Joseph Ghougassian, who served as President Reagan's envoy to Qatar, discussed his remarkable diplomatic initiative in 1988 that allowed Christians to worship publicly in that conservative Muslim nation for the first time since the arrival of Islam in the seventh century. Twenty years later, Qatar continues to tolerate Christian worship services for its large expatriate community and recently permitted the building of that country's first churches. Qatar shares the Wahhabi Islamic tradition with its neighbor Saudi Arabia, whose bans on public non-Muslim worship and the building of churches remain in place. While his achievement in advancing religious freedom went unacknowledged by the State Department, in 1989, Ambassador Ghougassian was awarded the rank of Knighthood Commander by Pope John Paul II for having successfully persuaded the Qatar Government to end fourteen centuries of prohibition on the practice of Christianity and other faiths in the country.
Born in Egypt of Armenian parents, Ambassador Ghougassian is the first naturalized US citizen from the Middle East to become a U. S. ambassador. He received his BA and MA in philosophy from the Gregorian University, Rome, and his PhD. in philosophy from the University of Louvain, Belgium. In addition to serving as ambassador to Qatar, he was White House Aide to President Reagan in charge of immigration and refugee policy, and was Peace Corps Director in Yemen. He has recently served in U.S. government reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. His book The Knight and The Falcon (2008) chronicles his diplomatic efforts to allow Christian worship in Qatar.
Hudson Senior Fellow and the Director of the Center for Religious Freedom, Nina Shea, moderated the event.
Betsy and Walter Stern Conference Center
1015 15th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20005
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