“History shows that nations that uphold the rights of their people -- including the freedom of religion -- are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful. Nations that do not uphold these rights sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism. So freedom of religion matters to our national security.”
President Obama warned, however, that across the world religious freedom is under threat: “We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful. We sometimes see religion twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are or how they pray or who they love. Old tensions are stoked, fueling conflicts along religious lines, as we’ve seen in the Central African Republic recently, even though to harm anyone in the name of faith is to diminish our own relationship with God.”
Mr. Obama said the United States promotes universal human rights, including religious freedom, even when to do so “is not always comfortable”:
“When I meet with Chinese leaders, and we do a lot of business with the Chinese, and that relationship is extraordinarily important not just to our two countries but to the world – but I stress that realizing China’s potential rests on upholding universal rights, including for Christians, and Tibetan Buddhists, and Uighur Muslims.”
More broadly, Mr. Obama said, no society can truly succeed unless it guarantees the rights of all its peoples, “Whether they’re Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, or Baha’i in Iran, or Coptic Christians in Egypt. And in Syria, it means ensuring a place for all people – Alawites and Sunni, Shia and Christian.”
President Obama also stressed the importance of remembering those who currently suffer for their faith, including two Americans: Kenneth Bae, who’s been held in North Korea for 15 months; and Pastor Saeed Abedini, detained in Iran for nearly two years.
The U.S. will continue to do everything in its power to secure Kenneth Bae’s release, Mr. Obama said, and called on the Iranian government to release Pastor Abedini.
President Obama promised that the United States “will keep standing for religious freedom,” and urged attendees to “nurture the dialogue between faiths that can break cycles of conflict and build true peace.”