Religious liberty: Gold for the U.S.?

AFP/GETTY IMAGES U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks on the “State of International Religious Freedom” July 30, 2012 … Continued

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks on the “State of International Religious Freedom” July 30, 2012 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.

Religious liberty may not be a recognized Olympic event but in the game of life it is neither a trivial pursuit.

The recent release of the U.S. Department of State annual report on international religious freedom underscores the importance this issue. Listen to the July 30, 2012 speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on the report’s release and you will discover that the principle of religious liberty is not only enshrined in the U.S. Constitution but also in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Watch the video on C-SPAN or on Carnegie Endowment’s Web site and note that unlike some Olympic events there are no empty seats in the room – demonstration the passion for the cause of religious liberty.

Participants included representatives of different faiths that beautify the mosaic of American society. They were there to listen, to learn and ask questions from the top diplomat in the U.S. government and not to observe the proverbial smoke and mirrors.

“More than a billion people live under governments that systematically suppress religious freedom. New technologies have given repressive governments additional tools for cracking down on religious expression,” Clinton said.

“How will Islamist parties govern?” she asked. It was an impression one could take from the questions arising after the speech. The anxiety appears to be from the political earthquake known as the Arab Spring. In answering the questions, she cautioned the world to be patient and not prejudge. While a number of countries were mentioned none were targeted for vilification.

Annual reports may not convey the whole story because the condensed downloadable file masks the enormous effort expended by the staff and the non-governmental organizations behind the scenes.

From firsthand experience going back to the first such report, I know the long hours worked by the staff of the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook. I also know the challenges in compiling the input that goes into the report; to do justice one must separate facts constituting religious persecution from false impressions and personal conflicts. The reports will perhaps never show the 1am email responses from the State Department employees who must condense the raw data into a standardized format.

Having met and worked with all the ambassadors-at-large for international religious freedom since the inception of this office, one comes with a keen appreciation of the sincerity and the dedication to the mission that Clinton pointed out. An example of the “walking the talk,” is the empathy from the questions of a senior state department representative who stopped by the table for my community at the Rayburn House Office Building reception organized by the U.S. House of Representatives International Religious Freedom Caucus.

Having participated in a meeting with the religion and foreign policy working group on development assistance issues, I heard personal testimony about how the lives of Kosovo Muslims were better off with such assistance. From this meeting at the Catholic Relief Services world headquarters in Baltimore, I came back with an appreciation of the opportunities that exist by U.S. citizens of different faiths joining hands and putting their words into action to change the lives of fellow human beings in need.

Clinton reminded the audience, the important principle remained that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”As such, there is no place for governmental organizations to dictate citizens on what faith to choose or interfere if individual citizens decide to change their faith – or for that matter, what to wear or not to wear.

Certainly, no government should have a free hand in denying citizenship rights to targeted minorities as is the case of the Rohingyas in Myanmar. Likewise, no government should force its citizens to denounce the founder of a peaceful religious community as in the case of Ahmadis in Pakistan in order to obtain basic documents such as a passport.

In her remarks, Clinton shared a conversation with Egyptians Christians who espoused their love to their country and wanted to work for its prosperity. Like the Egyptian Christians, the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the Bahai’s in Iran and Ahmadis in Pakistan have the same aspirations to make the societies they live in a better place. With the forceful support for the cause of religious liberty, Clinton and her dedicated team have set a goal that might be more than its weight in gold.

C. Naseer Ahmad is a co-author of “A Diamond in Africa: The Illustrious Life of an African Ahmadi.”

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks on the “State of International Religious Freedom” July 30, 2012 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.

Religious liberty may not be a recognized Olympic event but in the game of life it is neither a trivial pursuit.

The recent release of the U.S. Department of State annual report on international religious freedom underscores the importance this issue. Listen to the July 30, 2012 speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on the report’s release and you will discover that the principle of religious liberty is not only enshrined in the U.S. Constitution but also in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Watch the video on C-SPAN or on Carnegie Endowment’s Web site and note that unlike some Olympic events there are no empty seats in the room – demonstration the passion for the cause of religious liberty.

Participants included representatives of different faiths that beautify the mosaic of American society. They were there to listen, to learn and ask questions from the top diplomat in the U.S. government and not to observe the proverbial smoke and mirrors.

“More than a billion people live under governments that systematically suppress religious freedom. New technologies have given repressive governments additional tools for cracking down on religious expression,” Clinton said.

“How will Islamist parties govern?” she asked. It was an impression one could take from the questions arising after the speech. The anxiety appears to be from the political earthquake known as the Arab Spring. In answering the questions, she cautioned the world to be patient and not prejudge. While a number of countries were mentioned none were targeted for vilification.

Annual reports may not convey the whole story because the condensed downloadable file masks the enormous effort expended by the staff and the non-governmental organizations behind the scenes.

From firsthand experience going back to the first such report, I know the long hours worked by the staff of the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook. I also know the challenges in compiling the input that goes into the report; to do justice one must separate facts constituting religious persecution from false impressions and personal conflicts. The reports will perhaps never show the 1am email responses from the State Department employees who must condense the raw data into a standardized format.

Having met and worked with all the ambassadors-at-large for international religious freedom since the inception of this office, one comes with a keen appreciation of the sincerity and the dedication to the mission that Clinton pointed out. An example of the “walking the talk,” is the empathy from the questions of a senior state department representative who stopped by the table for my community at the Rayburn House Office Building reception organized by the U.S. House of Representatives International Religious Freedom Caucus.

Having participated in a meeting with the religion and foreign policy working group on development assistance issues, I heard personal testimony about how the lives of Kosovo Muslims were better off with such assistance. From this meeting at the Catholic Relief Services world headquarters in Baltimore, I came back with an appreciation of the opportunities that exist by U.S. citizens of different faiths joining hands and putting their words into action to change the lives of fellow human beings in need.

Clinton reminded the audience, the important principle remained that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”As such, there is no place for governmental organizations to dictate citizens on what faith to choose or interfere if individual citizens decide to change their faith – or for that matter, what to wear or not to wear.

Certainly, no government should have a free hand in denying citizenship rights to targeted minorities as is the case of the Rohingyas in Myanmar. Likewise, no government should force its citizens to denounce the founder of a peaceful religious community as in the case of Ahmadis in Pakistan in order to obtain basic documents such as a passport.

In her remarks, Clinton shared a conversation with Egyptians Christians who espoused their love to their country and wanted to work for its prosperity. Like the Egyptian Christians, the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the Bahai’s in Iran and Ahmadis in Pakistan have the same aspirations to make the societies they live in a better place. With the forceful support for the cause of religious liberty, Clinton and her dedicated team have set a goal that might be more than its weight in gold.

C. Naseer Ahmad is a co-author of “A Diamond in Africa: The Illustrious Life of an African Ahmadi.”

  • TonyDiaz999

    The easiest way to greater religious freedom in the USA is simply to save some ink and bar the arrogant hubris of the majority on OUR money: expunge “In God We Trust”.

    Then I can be a part of “We” instead of being excluded as non-American.

  • AgapeWord

    I trust in the Living God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is the only way to go to Heaven. John 3:16 …”For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
    No greater love exists than the love of God for us. If you’re not sure where you will spend eternity….call out to Jesus with all your heart. Ask Him if He is real.
    http://www.revealingheaven.com

  • ThomasBaum

    “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

    For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

    Seems to be that God “desires all men (humanity) to be saved”, could be that God desires that we also desire this, what do you think?

  • TonyDiaz999

    The next religious freedom the US should champion is a citizen not being expected to validate personal character by invoking diety with “so help me god” in deposition in our court of law.

    If the US were to lead the world in religious freeom, I doubt very much, it should stop this wanton assault on the character of the nonbelievers.

  • TonyDiaz999

    Please do not demonstrate your trust in your god on OUR money.

    If you do so in the private domain, I will express no opinion on such trust.

    Since you do so, I feel so outraged that I tend to express my opinion on such a trust: battered wife syndrome.

  • TonyDiaz999

    Your omnipotent god is surely very callous.

  • AgapeWord

    TonyD, callous is the opposite of what God is…He is longsuffering, full of love, love love and He does desire ALL to be saved so we can be with Him in Heaven when we pass on. I do trust in Him with all my heart because He has changed my heart…I use to be callous myself, a gossip, a liar, but since that day in 1996, at my home, the God of Heaven came and visited little ole me. He cares about everyone…He is not a respector of persons. Trusting in God is getting easier and easier as this world changes.

  • TonyDiaz999

    YOUR belief that there is a loving god does not concern me.

    MY belief that a loving god cannot possibly exist should be respected. I should not be expected to inoke god in deposition in OUR court of law to validate MY character.

    “God” is by definition omnipotent; if god exists, it/she/he is as tautology very callous in not preventing earthquakes and chain-drawning, as rescuers drawning with the first victim.

  • TonyDiaz999

    It really is pointless to have religious discussion with religious people. Can cannot discuss faith that induces contentment.

    The discussion can only be about basic decency of respect for nonbelievers.

  • TonyDiaz999

    I voted once in my college days until Obama. A total of twice all my life.
    When I first heard, “so help me god” in swearing in ceremony of whom I voted for, I felt a profound sense of distress. It was a harrowing experience for me.

    When I voted for Obama 30 years later, I thought I had to participate in this historic moment. After I heard his invoked deity in swearing in, I felt a profound sense of dissatisfaction, betrayal is perhaps too sentimental a word.
    I will vote for anyone for any issue who states that he or she will not invoke deity in swearing in ceremony. Otherwise, I will never vote for anyone again except against whom I see as significantly more religious.
    The USA is hostile to nonbelievers and I see little religious freedom in this country that is significant to me as a nonbeliever.

  • AgapeWord

    The “gold” I look forward to is on the streets of Heaven.
    John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosover believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
    http://www.revealingheaven.com
    The book, “Revealing Heaven” by Kat Kerr, shares many awesome eyewitness descriptions of the mansions (some rotate so they always have a fantastic view). God loves us so much but to go to Heaven you must believe in Him and His Son, also search the Scriptures to know what pleases Him. If you have a hard time believing…call out to Him from your heart and don’t give up. Read the Bible, His love letter to you. He rewards those who diligently seek Him. “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides forever.” 1John 2:17

  • ThomasBaum

    As It is written, “It is God’s Will that ALL be saved”.

    Maybe we should pray for God’s Will just as Jesus taught us.

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