Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you Mr. Chairman to you, Amb. Brownback and to Secretary Pompeo for convening this important conference here in DC.

Austria highly values and protects freedom of religion or belief: Austrian High Courts and the European Court of Human Rights guarantee that FORB and other human rights are kept in balance and remain unviolated.

Working towards reinforcing a cohesive society, Austria emphasizes the role of education to combat discrimination, intolerance and extremism.

In the framework of the “Dialogue of Religions”, Austria set up an Interreligious Dialogue Platform in 2014 encompassing Representatives of all 16 recognized religious and faith communities in Austria. In October 2015, a joint Declaration on combatting the abuse of religion to justify violence was adopted unanimously.

In order to address new forms of antisemitism, target-group-specific measures within migrant and refugee communities remain at the centre of Austria’s integration policy.

Moreover, Austria has had a pioneering role recognising Muslims as a religious community: The Islam law was passed already in the time of the Habsburg-monarchy in 1912 and was recently updated in 2015. It defines rights and obligations for Islamic Religious Communities, e.g.pastoral care in state facilities like hospitals or prisons.

FORB also constitutes a foreign policy priority for Austria, both at the bilateral and multilateral level.

Thus, the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination was one of Austria’s focus areas during her OSCE Chairmanship in 2017.

In this context, Austria is aware of her special historic responsibility and has repeatedly affirmed a zero-tolerance policy against any form of antisemitism. More specifically, as EU Presidency in the 2ndhalf of 2018, Austria led the Interior Ministers of the 28 EU Member States to adopt a first ever declaration of the EU Council on the fight against antisemitism and on securing Jewish life in Europe.

To conclude, I would like to underline once more that FORB is a universal human right that we need to promote jointly. It must not be a privilege for the few but a right belonging to every individual on the globe.

Thank you for your attention!

U.S. Department of State

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