Sat | Jul 20, 2019

Letter of the Day | Standing together on religious freedom

Published:Wednesday | July 10, 2019 | 12:23 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

In my remarks celebrating the 243rd anniversary of American independence, I emphasised that the United States’ enduring partnership with Jamaica was grounded on shared values and common interests. One of the core pillars of these values is a belief in, and protection of, religious freedom as a fundamental human right.

Sadly, around the globe, many religious communities face persecution, repression, and discrimination because of their beliefs. In fact, recent studies show that almost 80 per cent of the world’s population lives in a country with restrictions or outright hostility towards the enjoyment of their religious freedom.

Defining challenge

Advancing religious freedom globally is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century and is a top foreign policy priority for the US government. Academic studies continue to show the benefits reaped by nations as they embrace religious freedom. When religious freedom flourishes, it also opens the door for greater civil society efforts as humanitarian groups and charities build services to help and equip people.

To further advance religious freedom globally, from July 16 to 18, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will host the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, DC. The ministerial will build on last year’s groundbreaking event outcomes. It will be even bigger, bringing together up to 1,000 members of the religious community, civil society representatives, foreign ministers, and representatives of international organisations to discuss the challenges facing religious freedom.

As with the United States, Jamaica has a long history of cherishing religious freedom and recognises that when people are free, countries win, societies win, and people’s lives are improved.

Given our shared commitment to religious liberty, as a follow-on to the ministerial, the US Embassy will later this year host a roundtable discussion with Jamaican religious leaders and youth groups.

ERIC KHANT

Chargé d’affaires

US Embassy Kingston