Under Secretary Maria Otero of Democracy and Global Affairs today stated that organized religion makes up the largest part of civil society around the world.
At the joint National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church (NASCUMC) and International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities (IAMSCU) Conference, Ms. Otero said she was compelled by the potential progress that lies in working with religious groups, educators and youth around the world.
“Eighty-five percent of people worldwide participate in a faith tradition. Faith groups run many of the world’s schools and health care facilities. Major development and charitable groups are run by religious organizations or are founded upon a religious commitment to compassion.” -Ms. Otero
She underscored that religious activities of these groups are a crucial thread in the economic and political fabric of society. She underlined that there’s a need to engage with religious communities and educators in order to have a holistic understanding of the factors at play in any given country.
“Under the Obama Administration, we have seen a shift in dialogue towards mutuality and partnership with religious communities. We have challenged discrimination and intolerance, and fought to protect religious freedom, both at home and abroad.” -Ms. Otero
She stressed that the US government has condemned acts of religious intolerance – whether they are against Copts in Egypt, Buddhists in Tibet, or Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan.
“Violence in the name of religion is an insult to the religion itself. Any society that does not protect religious freedom cripples the pursuit of the stability and prosperity of its people.” -Ms. Otero
She pointed out that at the State Department there is a need to tap the talents and passions of young people. She emphasized their youthful energy, ideas and creativity are critical to finding new solutions to old problems.
“The global issues that we face today require passion and commitment. With today’s technology and global connections, youth are empowered with access to knowledge and resources unlike any generation before. I challenge you to prepare your students to take on these issues – whether it be strengthening democracy and protecting human rights, combating climate change, counterterrorism strategy or humanitarian relief. These are complex challenges that require the best and the brightest minds.” -Ms. Otero