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Religious Freedom Ambassador Settles into Role, Diplomacy

The former New York Baptist minister promotes international religious freedom.

Nearly a year into her stint as the State Department's point person on religious freedom, the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook has traveled to eight countries and seems to have moved beyond questions about her lack of diplomatic experience.

"I had to certainly learn the culture of the State Department," said Johnson Cook, the Obama administration's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, in a recent interview, "but I was not foreign to the issues."

She was in Abuja, Nigeria, not long after bombs killed dozens attending Christmas Day Mass. And she's been to Assisi, Italy, where she participated in an interfaith gathering organized by Pope Benedict XVI. But she still has many countries on her to-do list, including some of the State Department's hot spots.

Her initial plans for a February visit to China, which is designated as a "country of particular concern" for its religious freedom record, were halted when China denied her visa.

"We look forward to traveling and looking at a mutually ...

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