Freedom of religion is a core American value, but it is not an American invention. It is the birthright of every individual, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The freedom of religion is a priority for President Obama, as it is for me as Secretary of State, because it is essential to human dignity and individual liberty, and it remains an integral part of our global diplomatic engagement.
We call on the international community – governments, civil society, and citizens alike – to speak out against religious persecution, and to stand unequivocally for religious freedom.
We do so humbly, knowing that our own journey as Americans was not without challenge, that the Pilgrims who fled across the ocean to escape religious persecution and landed in my home state of Massachusetts, would soon witness congregations break away and found Connecticut and Rhode Island in search of their own freedom to worship.
We also know that centuries later, we would see Catholics persecuted simply for being who they were and believing what they believed. But even as we are humble about the challenges of our history, we are proud that no place has ever welcomed so many different faiths to worship so freely as here in the United States of America.
This is why we believe so deeply that governments everywhere must fulfill their responsibility to protect religious freedom equally for all and to ensure that those who claim religion as justification for criminal acts do not walk away with impunity.
Nations that protect this fundamental freedom will have the partnership of the United States and the abiding commitment of the American people as we seek to advance freedom of religion worldwide.