The Department of State has named an official to respond to the crisis facing religious minorities in the Middle East and South Asia, after a 13-month-long vacancy.
Department officials confirmed to The Daily Caller News Foundation that Knox Thames, currently a staffer at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIR), had been named special envoy for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. The news first came in a tweet from David Saperstein, the ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. (RELATED: Meet The New Religious Freedom Ambassador)
Thames is a high-ranking employee of USCIRF, a government agency which monitors the state of religious freedom worldwide. He is well-known and well-respected among Washington policy makers on religious freedom and persecution issues.
The position of special envoy was created by law in August 2014 in response to the war crimes of Islamic State against Christians, Yezidis and other religious minorities. (RELATED: What The Christian Relatives Of ISIS Victims Actually Want)
In the specialized position, Thames will help coordinate policy on the plight of religious minorities in a part of the world that is dominated by Islam. He will also help protect members of persecuted minority Muslim sects in the region, such as Shiites in Saudi Arabia and Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan.
The announcement came less than a week after a conference for advocates of Middle East Christians. Saperstein spoke at one of the organization’s events Friday, along with advocates for the U.S.’ recognition of Islamic State’s Christian persecutions as a genocide. (RELATED: Congressmen Push To Call ISIS Atrocities A Christian ‘Genocide’)
Other so-called Special Envoys at the State Department include officials responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, human rights in North Korea, the Syrian civil war, and LGBT rights.
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