WASHINGTON - The US government on Tuesday opened a three-day ministerial meeting, the first of its kind to promote freedom of religion which it says is under attack globally.

“The lack of religious freedom anywhere is a threat to peace, prosperity and stability everywhere,” US Ambassador Sam Brownback said in opening remarks at the forum hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The first two days are devoted to civil society and “survivors” of religious persecution, before a gathering Thursday of ministers from numerous countries.

“The right to freedom of religion and the ability to live according to the dictate of your own soul is under attack in the world,” Brownback said. As examples, he mentioned the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar, the mostly Muslim Uighur minority in China, and American pastor Andrew Brunson, detained in Turkey “on false charges” related to “terrorism.”

“This must change. And that’s why you’re here,” said Brownback, US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.

“We cannot afford to fail. Let us redouble our efforts to expand religious freedom,” he said.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has made religious liberty a human rights priority.

Washington “puts religious freedom, this fundamental human right, at the very center of our discussions with every country with whom we interact,” Pompeo said last week during an interview with Voice of America radio.

“No one should be punished by their government for their religious beliefs or the religious activities connected to those beliefs,” said Pompeo, who is to speak Thursday in front of the other government ministers.

Washington invited representatives of more than 80 countries that defend religious liberty or have begun to do so, along with more than 175 members of civil society and about 100 religious dignitaries.

The aim is to share experiences and announce new plans to advance the cause.