WASHINGTON - Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, the nation's new ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom who was sworn in earlier this week, now faces a laundry list of trouble spots.
"We have a passionate, visionary and experienced defender of religious freedom. And we have a big stack of issues just waiting for her," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Clinton met Cook, a Baptist preacher from the Bronx, when she served as a domestic advisor to former President Bill Clinton.
Cook has been described as "the Harriet Tubman for women in ministry." She helped break down barriers as the first female chaplain for the New York Police Department and the first black woman to be elected senior pastor of the American Baptist Churches of the USA.
CBN News Sr. International Reporter Gary Lane monitors the persecuted church around the world. Click play for his comments on the biggest challenges Johnson faces.
However, her role as ambassador may prove to be her biggest challenge "because around the world, religious freedom is under threat both by quiet intolerance and violent attack," Clinton said.
"Dr. Sue J.," as her parishioners know her, remains undaunted, saying she's prepared to step onto a volatile world stage as Christians and people of other faiths face growing persecution.
Jennifer Wishon sat down with Suzan Johnson Cook last month to talk more about her 2012 efforts for religious freedom. Watch below.
"For this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain," she said.
Cook said her rock is Jesus Christ, but as ambassador, she'll worship with different faiths around the world while monitoring religious persecution and discrimination.
As part of her job, she will help private organizations promote religious freedom and identify countries that oppress expressions of faith, reporting her findings back to Secretary Clinton and President Barack Obama.
"Religious freedom provides a cornerstone for every healthy society," Cook said. "In this season of the Arab Spring, we must encourage the highly religious countries of the Middle East and North Africa to guarantee full equality under the law for all religious actors."
She said these are all challenges that God has prepared her for.
--Originally published June 3, 2011.