U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, hailed the efforts made by the government of the United Arab Emirates in advancing mutual understanding and respect across faith communities.
He made the remarks while addressing the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, where he commended the role of the Forum’s President Shaykh Bin Bayyah in bringing together faith leaders, government officials, and civil society.
“I am particularly encouraged by the work of the Peace Forum, its partners, and the Government of the United Arab Emirates in advancing mutual understanding and respect across faith communities. There have been some groundbreaking initiatives in the past few years, which involved many of you who are participating today. Looking forward, the theme of this gathering neatly sums up the work that lies ahead for all of us: “Human Values After Corona: Reviving Virtues in Times of Crisis.”
The Peace Forum, he continued, is “insightful in posing questions about how the challenges we face from the pandemic reflect on the state of humanity. Preservation of human life is our highest priority. We are all also committed to uplifting the dignity of every individual, which is best achieved by protecting the rights of all individuals, especially in the face of current challenges. Without virtues, we cannot succeed in protecting human rights and uplifting the dignity of every individual.”
He added, “In early 2020, the United States launched an International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, an action-oriented network that has grown to include 32 countries that meets monthly at the expert level and annually at the foreign minister level to coordinate religious freedom initiatives. One of the first initiatives of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance was to call on all governments to fully protect the rights of all individuals, including members of religious minority groups, during the pandemic.”
He highlighted the significant civil society initiatives that are helping to advance religious freedom and peace around the world, such as the Peace Forum and its Alliance of Virtue and Shared Human Values initiative.
“In January, an Abrahamic Faiths Initiative or AFI was launched in Rome. This initiative of faith leaders seeks to promote peace and mutual respect across and through Abrahamic faith communities globally. At that first AFI meeting faith leaders in Rome, including Shaykh Bin Bayyah, expressed solidarity in promoting peace and mutual understanding. They all just met again last week, virtually, and came up with inspiring concrete plans to work together for peace around the world. Shaykh Bin Bayyah’s wisdom and leadership has been invaluable across all these efforts. I hope that the advocacy of members of the Alliance helps to end the persecution of individuals on the basis of their religion or beliefs. Nobody should face harassment, abuse, torture or imprisonment for simply trying to live in accordance with their conscience. Individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, should respect and accept one another’s beliefs and work together toward common challenges, such as the pursuit of peace, health, and prosperity.”
Without this cooperation, he continued, “we cannot improve our societies, and we cannot overcome one of the greatest challenges of our time, the global pandemic, which will have impacts far beyond its devastating health implications.”
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