United Alumna Named to Ambassador Post

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Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, D.Min. ’90, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON – Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook ’90, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday, April 14, as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the Department of State’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and was sworn in on May 16 by Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Maria Otero. The first woman and person of African American descent to hold this position, Dr. Johnson Cook was appointed by President Barack Obama, and will serve as principal advisor on religious issues globally to him and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She will be supported by the office of International Religious Freedom in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Upon her confirmation, Dr. Johnson Cook stated, “I am deeply honored by the trust that President Obama and Secretary Clinton have placed in me to serve our nation in advancing the right to freedom of religion abroad. I am similarly persuaded in my mind, heart, and soul that religious freedom is the birthright of all people everywhere;
a foundation of civil society, a key to international security, and it must always be a pillar of U.S. foreign policy.” Dr. Johnson Cook plans to embrace the mandate of the International Religious Freedom Act, while aggressively promoting the growth of the Office of International Religious Freedom. Plans also call for Dr. Johnson Cook
to provide oversight of the Annual Religious Freedom Report to Congress, a report that examines the state of religious freedoms in 198 countries throughout the globe.

A noted leader in the religious community, Dr. Johnson Cook is adept at developing interfaith synergies. Founder and President of Wisdom Worldwide Center,
and a former advisor on President Clinton’s Domestic Policy Council, she is the first female and African American to serve as Chaplain to the New York Police Department, a position she has held since 1990, and has served as Senior Pastor of Bronx Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in New York City since 1996. Dr. Johnson Cook also served as the Senior Pastor to The Mariners Temple Baptist Church from 1983 to 1986. A graduate of Harvard University, Dr. Johnson Cook also holds a B.S. from Emerson College, a Master of Arts from The Columbia University Teachers College, a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary, where she was a member of the Proctor Fellows. She was honored in 2007 as United’s Distinguished Alumna.

Through her international travels, Dr. Johnson Cook has had the privilege of engaging various religious beliefs through constructive dialogue that led to the accomplishment of common goals. She has traveled to five continents to engage Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Jews, and practitioners of several other spiritual traditions. She has visited Zimbabwe and South Africa to meet with Zulu faith leaders to promote religious freedom and tolerance; worked with World Vision, in Ruschlikon, Switzerland, in its efforts to combat global poverty; and has led interfaith delegations to Israel, Jordan and Egypt. As a young woman, Dr. Johnson Cook worked with Operations Crossroads Africa, and participated in a cross-cultural exchange with many spiritual groups in Ghana. These experiences act as key elements of her brand and have uniquely prepared her for
the task of stewarding religious freedom on a global basis.

Listen to the Interview with Dr. Johnson Cook

Interview Part 1

Interview Part 2