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

Talking to Religious Actors to Preserve Indigenous Languages

Talking to Religious Actors to Preserve Indigenous Languages

Thursday, April 21, 2022

By: Knox Thames;  Mackenzie Miller

In the past, most cultural preservation efforts have focused on protecting the tangible manifestations of heritage such as buildings, worship sites and other physical items. But a 2019 U.N. resolution on the rights of Indigenous peoples emphasized the critical loss of Indigenous languages and its importance to their cultural heritage, thus mandating an international effort to “preserve, revitalize and promote Indigenous languages.”

Type: Analysis and Commentary

ReligionPeace Processes

A New Test for Iraq’s Democracy and Stability

A New Test for Iraq’s Democracy and Stability

Monday, March 7, 2022

By: Knox Thames;  Sarhang Hamasaeed

The sudden crisis around Russia threatens democratic norms and energy markets worldwide, only heightening the urgency of stabilizing Iraq, the world’s fifth-largest oil producer. Yet five months after Iraq’s elections, held in response to massive protests against ineffective governance, political factions remain dangerously deadlocked in efforts to form a new government. Shaping a more stable, peaceful Iraq—and responding to the 2019-2020 grassroots demands for democratic, accountable governance—will require a fuller inclusion of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities. Yet the prospects remain unclear. Iraq’s minority communities are watching carefully, as their future depends on it. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Four Lessons From Desmond Tutu’s Life and Legacy

Four Lessons From Desmond Tutu’s Life and Legacy

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

By: Palwasha L. Kakar;  Melissa Nozell;  Knox Thames

On December 26, the world lost a “moral compass,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, aged 90. Grounded in his Christian faith, his legacy as a peacebuilder through his anti-Apartheid activism and promotion of peace and justice is unparalleled. Tutu’s great influence on the field of peacebuilding, and his mark on peace and reconciliation efforts have rippled worldwide. Here are four attributes that Archbishop Tutu exemplified as a religious peacebuilder, radically inspiring people across the globe to fight injustice and advocate for peace. 

Type: Blog

Religion

Unrealized Ideal: 40 Years After a Seminal Declaration on Religious Freedom

Unrealized Ideal: 40 Years After a Seminal Declaration on Religious Freedom

Monday, November 29, 2021

By: Knox Thames

Anniversaries serve as natural inflection points, opportunities for introspection, to take stock and to consider where to go next. November 25 marked the 40th anniversary of the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Despite its unwieldy name, the aim was simple: to promote freedom of religion or belief and condemn discrimination based on faith. The 1981 Declaration was a culmination of almost four decades of U.N. efforts to develop international legal protections for freedom of belief to defend minorities from persecution. Forty years later, however, almost two-thirds of humanity live in countries with restrictions on the practice of faith. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

ReligionHuman Rights

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