Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today said the passing of Resolution 1618 calls upon states to protect freedom of religion.
At the OIC high-level meeting on combating religious intolerance, Ms. Clinton said it is her pleasure to be back at the Research Center for Islamic History, Art, and Culture in the magnificent Yildiz Palace in Istanbul.
“In our conversation 15 years ago, I remember the secretary general talking about the imperative for us to move beyond these differences and how much the three great monotheistic religions have in common, especially our respective commandments to love our neighbors and to seek peace and understanding.” – Ms. Clinton
She said she has seen violent attacks across the world, where those who are members of minority communities – either religious or ethnic – have been killed by their neighbors. She added that the world has seen the transitions to democracy that are so inspiring in the Middle East and North Africa, but have also exposed ethnic and religious minorities to new dangers.
“And in established democracies, we are still working to protect fully our religious diversity, prevent discrimination, and protect freedom of expression. So for all of these reasons, this gathering and the shared commitment it represents is vitally important. It is one of these events that has great ramifications far beyond this room.” – Ms. Clinton
She applauded the Organization of Islamic Conference and the European Union for helping pass Resolution 1618 at the Human Rights Council.
“Under this resolution, the international community is taking a strong stand for freedom of expression and worship, and against discrimination and violence based upon religion or belief.” – Ms. Clinton
Ms. Clinton said those are fundamental freedoms that belong to all people in all places, and they are certainly essential to democracy. She highlighted that the resolution calls upon states to protect freedom of religion, to counter offensive expression through education, interfaith dialogue, and public debate, and to prohibit discrimination, profiling, and hate crimes, but not to criminalize speech unless there is an incitement to imminent violence.
“We will be looking to all countries to hold themselves accountable and to join us in reporting to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights on their progress in taking these steps.” – Ms. Clinton
And to build on the momentum from today’s meeting, Ms. Clinton said this year the United States intends to invite relevant experts from around the world to the first of what the world hopes will be a series of meetings to discuss best practices, exchange ideas, and keep them moving forward beyond the polarizing debates of the past; to build those muscles of respect and empathy and tolerance that the secretary general referenced.
“It is essential that we advance this new consensus and strengthen it, both at the United Nations and beyond, in order to avoid a return to the old patterns of division.” – Ms. Clinton