U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently swore in David Saperstein as the new Religious Freedom Envoy at the State Department. During the swearing-in, Secretary Kerry stressed that religious freedom remains at the center of American values and is an essential component of U.S. foreign policy.
"Today," said Secretary Kerry, "thousands of people are in prison because of their religious practices or beliefs. In the Central African Republic, Christian and Muslim militias are engaged in a bloody conflict. In Burma, radical Buddhists are seeking to deny citizenship to an Islamic minority. In the Middle East and Africa, terror networks such as Daesh and Boko Haram are betraying fundamental principles of their own religion of Islam."
Ambassador Saperstein's role will be to promote the fundamental right of all people to believe, to worship, to practice their religion, or to reject all religion, in accordance with their own conscience and without fear of persecution.
"We do this work," said Mr. Saperstein, "at a time when forces aligned against religious freedom have grown alarmingly strong. . . .Most vividly, the whole world has witnessed the tragic, violent attacks by ISIL, known as Daesh, against people of many faiths – most recently the tragic, tragic, targeting of Egyptian Copts in Libya. Even as we must respond to this specific crisis," said Ambassador Saperstein, "we will win the battle of freedom only when our long-term goal must be to ensure the internationally recognized right to religious freedom for everyone and every group."
"To the religiously oppressed in every land," said Ambassador Saperstein, "who live in fear, afraid to speak of their beliefs; who worship in underground churches, mosques, or temples, lest authorities discover and punish their devotion to an authority higher than the state; who languish in prisons, simply because they love God in their own way; who question the existence of God; who feel so desperate that they flee their homes to avoid persecution, indeed, as we have seen so often to avoid simply being killed because of their faith – to all of them. . .our nation can be, must be, will be a beacon of light and hope."