In Memoriam: Father Keith Roderick, Champion of Religious Freedom

Father Keith Roderick

With great sadness, the National Conference of Jewish Affairs mourns the passing of a human rights hero, Father Keith Roderick.

Father Keith served as Secretary General of the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR). I was honored to meet him during the formative years of that Coalition, and Jewish Action Alliance joined in his efforts to champion the rights of minorities living under the oppression of brutal regimes and dictators. The Coalition has since become a consortium of over fifty-five organizations working together to protect the rights of minorities living in Islamic countries. Members of the Coalition include Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Assyrians, Armenians, Bahai, Copts, Lebanese, Indonesians, Iranians, Pakistanis, Indians, Sudanese, Nigerians, and others.

Father Keith was a man of kindness and dignity, and a stalwart friend to the Jewish People and Israel.  He fought for Soviet dissidents and persecuted Jews in the Soviet Union. He served as the Co-Director of the International Task Force, formerly The Task Force on Soviet Jewry. He also served as Executive Director of the Sudan Campaign, testified in Congress about issues of religious freedom, and Co-Chaired the Coalition to Save Iraq’s Christians and Other Defenseless Minorities.

In conversations over the years, we shared our dismay over the violent oppression of religious minorities under brutal Islamist regimes, as well as our concern that the mainstream media, well-known pundits, religious and communal leaders, elected officials, celebrities and others who could have spoken out publicly and made a difference remained absolutely silent for decades.

A defender of the persecuted and oppressed of all faiths across the globe, Father Keith fought the battle for international religious freedom with courageous diligence and grace. He earned the affection and loyalty of people of many faiths, who saw in him a leader of selflessness and commitment to principle.

Father Keith was an example to us all in his devotion to his wife and family, liberty and truth.  Our spirits were boosted by his steadfastness; the world was made better by his presence.

Beth Gilinsky

National Conference of Jewish Affairs