ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ABROAD
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
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.
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.
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.
Alex Arriaga & Charles Brown