Knox Thames is a visiting expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace with the Middle East and Religion and Inclusive Societies teams. Thames joined USIP after 20 years of government service, including at the State Department and two different U.S. government foreign policy commissions.

Most recently, Thames served across two administrations as the special advisor for religious minorities in the Near East and South and Central Asia at the U.S. Department of State. The first to serve in this capacity, he received a civil service appointment in September 2015 to lead State Department efforts to address the situation of religious minorities in these regions.

Thames previously served on the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe—also known as the Helsinki Commission—as well as with the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, AmeriCorps, and the U.S. Army War College as an adjunct research professor. In addition to USIP, he is currently a senior fellow with the Institute for Global Engagement, with both positions made possible thanks to the Templeton Religion Trust.

Reflecting his expertise on religion and global affairs, Thames’ articles have appeared in the Yale Journal of International Affairs, the Small Wars Journal, and the Georgetown Journal for International Affairs. He was the initiator and lead author of “International Religious Freedom Advocacy: A Guide to Organizations, Law and NGOs” published by Baylor University Press. He has spoken before the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, the European Parliament, the OSCE, and the U.S. military war colleges.

Thames received a bachelor’s from Georgetown College, a Juris Doctorate from American University's Washington College of Law, and a master's in international affairs from the School of International Service at American University. In addition, he studied at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland.

Publications By Knox

Knox Thames on the State of Global Religious Freedom

Knox Thames on the State of Global Religious Freedom

Monday, November 30, 2020

By: Knox Thames

As global restrictions on faith reach all-time highs, USIP’s Knox Thames say the United States must continue to be a vocal leader in combatting persecution and pursuing religious freedom, saying, “I think the time is right … anything we say goes out like a megaphone to the rest of the world.”

Type: Podcast

Religion

Human Rights Education as the Solution to Religious Persecution

Human Rights Education as the Solution to Religious Persecution

Monday, November 23, 2020

By: Knox Thames

Persecution on account of religion or belief confronts every community somewhere around the world—and it is an increasing trend. Challenges range from terrorist violence against minorities, such as ISIS’ depravations against Yazidis, to persecution by authoritarian governments, with China’s targeting of all faiths a prime example. To organize a defense of freedom of conscience and belief, the United States convened the Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2018 and 2019, bringing together a virtual congress of nations and civil society activists from around the world. The third ministerial, organized by Poland, was held virtually in mid-November. Discussions identified challenges but also solutions. One consistent answer to the vexing problem of persecution was proffered: educating youth about human rights and pluralism.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Religion; Education & Training

After ISIS Genocide, Yazidis Need More Than Remembrance

After ISIS Genocide, Yazidis Need More Than Remembrance

Monday, August 3, 2020

By: Knox Thames

It’s August 2014 in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar. The police have fled; the army had crumbled. ISIS is rampaging and rolls into Sinjar that summer. The international community is asleep—and the Yazidis (Ezidis) are defenseless. ISIS perpetrates the unthinkable—men and boys are slaughtered, while women and girls enslaved and raped—all because they believe in something different. A genocide happened on our watch.

Type: Blog

Human Rights; Religion

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