The Religious Freedom Page


The Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad continues to focus on the violation of religious freedom, including religious persecution, and on the role of religion in conflict resolution and promotion of human rights such as religious freedom.

Throughout the ages, religious freedom has remained among the most cherished and sacred rights. Internationally it is protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. In the United States, it is part of the cornerstone of our democracy and is exercised by over sixty different religions and beliefs that call America home.

Tragically, people of all faiths are subjected to intolerance, discrimination, and persecution for their beliefs. At the same time, people of every faith are involved in efforts to ease conflicts and promote reconciliation in regions plagued by hatred, violence, and war.

In fact, there is common ground among the world's religions and beliefs. Every religion shares the teaching that we should treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves. History demonstrates that the injustices that affect one person may soon threaten another and that we live in an interconnected world. Again and again, it is important to reaffirm that we all share responsibility for demonstrating leadership in fostering religious tolerance at home and abroad.

As a continuation of its work in 1997, the Advisory Committee will form smaller "teams" this year to review in more detail the existing mechanisms and programs that advance religious freedom and conflict resolution, with the purpose of offering a final report at the end of the year with further recommendations on how the U.S. Government and the religious community can better promote religious freedom.

Proposed Advisory Committee Teams for 1998

Refugee and Asylum - Observe and assess how issues of religious persecution are dealt with in considering claims for asylum and refugee status. Meet with relevant groups, such as non-governmental organizations, asylum and refugee resettlement organizations, and government agencies, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration. Visit processing centers, courts, and congressional offices with oversight of immigration procedures. Focus on current practices, training of government officers, and general sensitivity to handling of cases involving victims of violations of religious freedom and other human rights.

The Rev. Dr. Don Argue
Bishop Frederick Calhoun James
The Rev. James Henry
Bishop Ricardo Ramirez

Bill Bartlett & Carol Finerty

Assistance and Training - Review existing mechanisms and programs that promote conflict resolution, democratic institutions, justice and rule of law, and human rights to ensure adequate protection of religious freedom and other human rights. Meet with relevant non-governmental organizations and government agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, Department of Justice, and the State Department that manage assistance programs and training in human rights and that provide information to Americans traveling or conducting business abroad. Review the U.S. Information Agency's international exchange programs and publications for their emphasis on respect for religious freedom and other human rights, conveyance of U.S. opposition to violations of religious freedom, and depiction of the multi-religious character of America. Visit the National Foreign Affairs Training Center to assess the course materials, agenda, and other training aspects, with a focus on information about regional religious traditions and violations of religious freedom. Meet with relevant bureaus at the Department of Commerce, the Department of State, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Chamber of Commerce to consider the U.S. Government materials for businesses and the information they receive on human rights conditions, including religious freedom, and on the model business principles, in particular protection of religious freedom and other human rights.

Dr. Laila Al-Marayati
Father Leonid Kishkovsky
Dr. David Little
Ms. Nina Shea

Nancy Hewett, Jeremy Gunn, & Tamara Resler

Foreign Policy Tools - Assess the array of foreign policy tools available to the U.S. Government with a focus on programs that engage governments and/or non-governmental organizations. Focus on utility of sanctions, trade and arms restrictions, and International Financial Institution assistance, looking at both bilateral and multilateral efforts. Examine State, USIA, and AID assistance, outreach, and other programs for scope and effectiveness in promoting religious freedom abroad. Review structures and resources of State Department and other foreign policy agencies to determine adequacy and effectiveness in addressing and integrating issues of religious freedom into broader foreign policy goals. Examine role of Congress, including Codels, in advancing religious freedom abroad. Look at possible roles of Departments of Labor and Commerce as well as business and labor.

Rabbi Dr. Irving Greenberg
Mr. Antonios Kireopoulos
Dr. David Little
Archbishop Theodore McCarrick
Dr. Barney Rubin
Dr. Elliot Sperling

Jeremy Gunn & Susan Sutton

Community Outreach and Dialogue at Home and Abroad - Meet with religious groups across America to discuss violations of religious freedom abroad, including religious persecution, engage and promote inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue, explore experiences with conflict resolution and with promoting respect for human rights, especially religious freedom, and discuss other relevant topics, such as the treatment of minority religions and the diverse perspectives on proselytizing, as well as abuses against proselytizers. Provide an assessment of the range of religious organizations that promote religious freedom, oppose and monitor human rights violations (especially religious persecutions, and engage in conflict resolution and reconciliation efforts. Address the role of religious groups in monitoring, promoting, and protecting religious freedom and other human rights abroad. Discuss appropriate venues for religious groups to provide U.S. Government officers, especially those in Embassies abroad, with information on violations of religious freedom and other human rights. Encourage dialogue among religious communities, human rights groups, and business corporations. Underscore the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, as a universal human right and suggest the appropriate U.S. Government role in facilitating human rights work of religious groups.

The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell
Dr. Diana Eck
Dr. Wilma Ellis
The Rev. Billy Kyles
Dr. Deborah Lipstadt
Imam Wallace Deen Mohammed
Elder Russell Nelson

Alex Arriaga & Charles Brown


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