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Religious Freedom - Moral Imperative and Challenge

Fatima, 10, washes her face at a water tank provided by UNICEF in Tinah Camp on September 5, 2016. USAID has been supporting UNICEF to provide safe drinking water at the displacement camp in Ninewa Governorate to keep families, especially kids, healthy.

"Fighting so that each person is free to believe, free to assemble and to teach the tenets of his or her own faith is not optional -- indeed it is a moral imperative.”

Religious Freedom - Moral Imperative and Challenge
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In remarks at the U.S. State Department welcoming representatives from over 100 countries to the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that all the attendees agree “that fighting so that each person is free to believe, free to assemble and to teach the tenets of his or her own faith is not optional -- indeed it is a moral imperative.”

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback noted in his remarks, “Although most of the world is religious, 80 percent of the world’s population lives in a religiously restricted place. It’s time to bring down these religious restrictions so that the iron curtain of religious persecution can come down for one and all.”

Mark Green, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, described some of the places around the world where religious intolerance and persecution have effectively become official policy. In Burma, he referenced the military’s ethnic cleansing of Rohingya; in Crimea, the Kremlin continues its repression of members of the Tatar community; and in China, the Chinese government has detained over one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minorities in camps since April 2017.

“USAID and others are working to offer some relief and assistance to those who have suffered so very much,” said Administrator Green. For example, he noted, “Our Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response Program is already providing $340 million for work in northern Iraq. We’re working with 57 new local partners. Thirteen faith-based groups of 35 international organizations, providing urgent relief and humanitarian assistance to devastated communities…Our [USAID] projects are community-driven and community-led.”

Administrator Green observed that all of the world’s great religious traditions speak of the necessity of responding to the needs of others. At this year’s Ministerial, he said, “We affirm our support for the freedoms that enable us to meet openly and to speak openly about the importance of faith in our communities and in our countries. But we go a step further: we invite each other – no, we challenge each other - to take up the mission that the world’s great faith traditions call for. To live lives and build communities for believers and nonbelievers alike. To share a tunic with him who has none.”