Religious Freedom Today: Student Addison Hollomon
Born in Seattle, Washington, Addison Hollomon is a senior majoring in International Affairs. Her article “Iraq’s Future Depends on Achieving Religious Freedom in Mosul Today” was published by the Religious Freedom Institute, a non-profit organization that works to advance religious freedom for everyone. Last semester, Addison was the Chief of Staff and Events Coordinator of JCU’s Student Government, and she is currently the President of the Interfaith Alliance.
What brought you to JCU?
I came to Italy for the first time when I was 14 with my choir, and I really liked it. So, when I was deciding where to go to college, I always had Rome on my mind as it had a special place in my heart. I found out about JCU online and thought it was the perfect opportunity. The University’s location is amazing. I really love being in Rome. Also, I like learning about domestic politics of the US and its relations with other countries and their politics. So, I chose to major in International Affairs to get a better grasp on what that looks like around the world and to pursue a Foreign Service career.
Congratulations on having your article Iraq’s Future Depends on Achieving Religious Freedom in Mosul Today published with the Religious Freedom Institute. Tell us about it.
It was a part of my internship with the Religious Freedom Institute. My supervisor asked me to study Iraq and the Middle East and to find a topic that I wanted to work on, so I chose to focus on religious freedom. I learned about Mosul, which is a city in Northern Iraq that was taken over by ISIS in 2014 and was liberated in 2017. When ISIS controlled Mosul, there was a lot of destruction throughout Northern Iraq in general, but especially in the city of Mosul. So, I researched the history of religious diversity in Mosul and what ISIS did to try to destroy it.
Then in 2017, when ISIS was defeated, there was the question of what could be done by the Iraqi government and outside forces and institutions to help rebuild the city. A starting point would be rebuilding the houses of worship that were destroyed. It was clear that the reconstruction of these historic buildings would be an important factor in rebuilding the morale of Mosul. Religious freedom is important for stability in a country after it has been taken over by a terrorist group.
Tell us about your internship with the Religious Freedom Institute.
The internship with the Religious Freedom Institute was great. I was one of seven interns from other small liberal arts colleges, and we all fit in well together. I was on the international religious freedom policy team, and I worked with the vice president, editing his book, accompanying him to meetings, and helping him with several interviews. Many Supreme Court decisions came out this summer 2022 concerning religious freedom and so I got to meet the litigators that worked on them.
We also volunteered for a week at the International Religious Freedom Summit in DC, which is an annual conference that involves people from all over the world. That was a great learning experience.
Were there any classes at JCU that helped you prepare for this internship?
Definitely. Last semester I took Comparative Politics, and Religious Freedom in a Comparative Perspective. These courses gave me a foundation in the history of religious freedom, especially from a legal perspective.
Tell us about your experience working with Student Government.
Being in Student Government was great since it allowed me to represent students and listen to their concerns. I worked on a couple of different projects as Chief of Staff. We met with the Dean of Students and the Health and Wellbeing Office to implement a sexual assault policy that was included in the Student Handbook last year. It’s very important that students know what resources are available to them.
You’re currently the President of the Interfaith Alliance. What projects are you working on?
We have gathered a great board of diverse students to create this new club. It’s fun to see something that I’ve worked hard on come to fruition. We plan on having interfaith dialogues and discussions involving people with different religious backgrounds. We want to have discussions about the afterlife, meditation, and women in religion, to name a few topics.
We also want to take students to different religious sites around Rome. Right now, we’re planning on taking students to the Great Mosque of Rome. This is a good way to engage students and give them an opportunity to see Rome from a different perspective. We are also planning on having religious celebrations at the end of the year with the intent of promoting empathy and understanding for people of different religious traditions.
What are your plans for the future?
Right now, I’m applying to the Pickering Fellowship, which is a two-year master’s degree in either International Affairs or Religious Studies that grants you automatic entry into the Foreign Service. So ideally after graduation, I’d like to become a diplomat. I would like to pursue a master’s in International Affairs with an emphasis on Global Religion and Politics. I’d also like to prioritize learning Arabic while working on my master’s.