More than 300 religious leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths came together in Washington, DC, this week to discuss their differences and look for ways to coexist in peace.
The leaders gathered Wednesday as part of The Alliance of Virtue for the Common Good conference.
New US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback took a lead role at the conference, and called religious freedom today's most important foreign relations topic.
"You all are in a unique position to advance religious freedom within your communities and congregations in ways the United States government, or for that matter any government, is not able to do," Ambassador Brownback said. "This is not an easy task."
In his speech, he acknowledged many are promoting peace at great risk and great political cost, but it must be done.
Pastor Dr. Bob Roberts from Northwood Church in Texas echoed the importance of unity against extremism and terrorism, stressing that failure would only cause more to struggle.
He told CBN News he's now organizing community projects side by side Jews and Muslims in his home town.
"As someone whose worked in Pakistan with believers there, if I can build good relationships with Muslims here, it helps the Christians in Pakistan big time," Pastor Roberts said.
Archbishop Angaelos with the Coptic Orthodox Church says his people have experienced much persecution.
"I'm sure any perpetrators of those crimes if they dealt with Coptic Christians as fellow human beings and looking at the dignity of life in them, they wouldn't be so ready to do what they've done," Pastor Roberts said.
Leaders at the conference called for the provision of one billion meals to feed the communities that have been made vulnerable by the violence and conflict of religious persecution.
Deborah Fikes, a Texas-based Southern Baptist and former permanent representative from the World Evangelical Alliance to the United Nations, also discussed the challenges of interfaith work among conservative Christian groups.
"Growing up, Catholics were criticized, Muslims were criticized, the Methodists were criticized. It was always such a focus on our differences," she said during a panel. "Yes, there are definitely obstacles (to tolerance) for evangelicals because of that culture."
Fikes said that in her United Nations work, she observed that American military actions abroad can foster negative perceptions of America, especially when conflated with the belief that the US is a "Christian nation."
She expressed concern that in America, the "conservative political party's policies" are "really hurting the most vulnerable," pointing to evangelical support for the Trump administration's recent decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel – despite widespread objections among Middle Eastern Christians.
During the same panel discussion, Rabbi David Rosen, international director for the American Jewish Committee's Department of Interreligious Affairs, described the event as "an incredibly historic gathering that sets the stage for a new era."
The conference concluded a day before the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, an annual gathering of largely conservative Christians that often includes an address by the president of the United States.