Knox Thames is a senior visiting expert with the religion and inclusive societies team at USIP.

Thames joined USIP in 2020 after two decades government service, including at the State Department and two different U.S. government foreign policy commissions.

Thames has deep experience regarding South and Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and U.S. foreign policy relating to human rights. Serving several presidential administrations, he has worked at the intersection of global affairs, religion and human rights. Thames was appointed by both the Obama and Trump 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 at Pepperdine University, with both positions made possible thanks to the Templeton Religion Trust.

He has spoken before the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, European Parliament, the Organization of American States, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Atlantic Council, Wilton Park, U.S. military war colleges, and the Foreign Service Institute.

Reflecting his expertise on religion and global affairs, his articles have appeared in the Washington Post, USA Today, TIME, the Times of London, the Yale Journal of International Affairs, the Small Wars Journal, the Georgetown Journal for International Affairs, and others. He was the initiator and lead author of “International Religious Freedom Advocacy: A Guide to Organizations, Law and NGOs” published by Baylor University Press. In addition, his new book, "Ending Persecution," will be released in 2024 by University of Notre Dame Press.

Thames received a bachelor’s from Georgetown College, a law degree 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

Promoting Peace and Stability in the Americas through Religious Freedom

Promoting Peace and Stability in the Americas through Religious Freedom

Thursday, March 28, 2024

By: Knox Thames

The Western Hemisphere is generally known for protecting freedom of religion or belief. With a few notable exceptions, the countries of the region all enshrine religious freedom at the constitutional level and protect it through laws and policies. But in recent years, authoritarian governments in South America have increasingly viewed religious actors as threats to their regime’s survival and tried to control or crush independent religious activity.

Type: Analysis

Religion

USIP Explains: How Religious Freedom Promotes Peace and Security

USIP Explains: How Religious Freedom Promotes Peace and Security

Monday, January 29, 2024

By: Knox Thames

In almost every society, religious belief can guide the actions of people in both positive and negative ways. For peacebuilders, it’s important to understand the religious landscape in communities affected by conflicts and violence. USIP’s Knox Thames discusses how promoting openness to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief can help de-escalate violence and lead to better stability and security.

Type: Blog

Conflict Analysis & PreventionReligion

In Religious Conflicts, Bolstering the Role of Military Chaplains

In Religious Conflicts, Bolstering the Role of Military Chaplains

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

By: Melissa Nozell;  Knox Thames

In the 2020s, how urgently should the U.S. military prepare to address religious facets of armed conflicts? Violence from Beirut to the Red Sea this month threatens to spread the Israel-Hamas war regionwide. Violence fueled through religious identities and extremisms also afflicts Asia and Africa. Russia manipulates religion to justify its invasion of Ukraine. However, simultaneously, religious ideas can help resolve conflicts. The United States should seize a current opportunity to improve its ability to navigate the religious terrain of conflicts with enhanced training and roles for an often under-appreciated resource: military chaplains.

Type: Analysis

Religion

Meaningful Action Needed to Check Human Rights Abuses

Meaningful Action Needed to Check Human Rights Abuses

Friday, December 8, 2023

By: Knox Thames

Human Rights Day on December 10 provides an opportunity to consider 2023, a year with many positive and negative milestones. For instance, this year marks the 75th anniversary of landmark documents establishing the international human rights legal order. But 2023 also witnessed mass atrocities, political and religious repression, inter and intra-state conflict, and other evils. With the stark reality of ongoing human rights abuses, we should not walk away in hopeless antipathy but rather recommit to defending fundamental freedoms for all, drawing strength and inspiration from the work of preceding generations.

Type: Analysis

Human Rights

What Comes Next for the International Religious Freedom Movement?

What Comes Next for the International Religious Freedom Movement?

Friday, December 8, 2023

By: Knox Thames

The historic city of Prague recently hosted diplomats, civil society activists and religious leaders from 60 countries around the shared goal of global religious freedom. Convened by the Czech government, it was the fifth gathering since the United States launched the ministerial process in 2018. As persecution continues worldwide, victimizing individuals from all faiths and none, the timing was right to gather those committed to promoting freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief for all.

Type: Analysis

Human RightsReligion

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