I’m delighted to join the inaugural International Religious Freedom Summit, to reiterate the Biden Administration’s commitment to promote and defend religious freedom around the world for everyone.
Freedom of religion or belief is a human right.
It goes to the heart of what it means to be human – to think freely, follow our conscience, change our beliefs if our hearts and minds lead us to do so, and express our beliefs in public and in private.
This freedom is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It’s also part of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Freedom of religion or belief, like every human right, is universal.
All individuals everywhere are entitled to it, no matter where they live or what they believe – or don’t believe.
And religious freedom is co-equal with other human rights – and human rights are indivisible.
For example, a person’s right to speak, assemble, or participate in the political life of their country are all connected to freedom of religion or belief.
When that freedom is jeopardized, the others are, too.
The United States is committed to defending and advancing human rights – and religious freedom is a vital component of our diplomacy.
Every day, our team in the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department in Washington – along with American diplomats around the world – work with local religious communities and civil society advocates to track threats to religious freedom, coordinate responses, and lift up solutions.
In recent years, the United States has expanded partnerships with likeminded governments to press others to address the systemic and structural challenges that undermine religious freedom.
And we’ve seen some promising responses – including transformational change in Sudan and Uzbekistan, which had long been designated by our government as Countries of Particular Concern for their severe abuses, and are now on a much better path toward protecting the rights of their citizens.
We’re looking forward to appointing an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom in the coming weeks.
We’ll continue to work closely with civil society organizations – including many of you – to combat all forms of religiously motivated hatred, violence, and discrimination around the world.
As those on the front lines, civil society members are often the first to report atrocities, abuses, and persecution – and the first to offer support to those in desperate need of it.
Whether by shining a spotlight on the worst offenders of religious freedom, reuniting those separated from their families, providing shelter and resettlement to those forced from their homes, facilitating the release of wrongfully detained individuals, or helping survivors to speak out against their abusers, we’re often able to make a difference together.
And we’ll keep going.
Our country was founded in part on the conviction that everyone should be free to believe what they choose.
With the support of everyone gathered at this Summit, we will maintain America’s longstanding leadership on religious freedom.
Thanks for listening.