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Dobrý večer.  Ambassador Rana, Chair Hasna, Deputy Speaker Grendell, Mayor Vallo, excellencies, and dear guests, thank you for inviting me to this interfaith Iftar.  It is an honor to join you all during the holy month of Ramadan, which brings communities together for spiritual reflection.   I am particularly honored to celebrate this holy month with the thousands of Muslims who call Slovakia home.  As a longtime U.S. diplomat, I have had the honor to host Iftars from India to France, to China, and to Kazakhstan, and it’s especially meaningful to be here for the very first one hosted by U.S. Mission Bratislava.

This year Ramadan occurs in the same month as Easter and Passover.  May this convergence remind us all of the need for greater understanding and compassion toward one another in our daily lives.  This shared season of reflection, rejuvenation, and triumph over adversity reminds us how there is so much more that connects us than divides us, regardless of our belief system, background, or nationality.

Just like in the United States, Muslims have and will always be an integral part of the fabric of Slovak society—whether talking about culture, education, science, or economic development.  I understand, for instance, that Muslim immigrants and Slovaks of Muslim heritage are among some of the top medical professionals here—providing vital support to a sector that has long been under pressure.  This is true of one of Slovakia’s top cardiology hospitals, which has been led by a Muslim immigrant for years.

During Ramadan, we see a noble commitment to service and the wellbeing of one’s neighbors and community members, including doing all we can to assist those in need.  This value of service toward others is the cornerstone of building resilient, strong, and peaceful communities.

During this month of charity, we are also particularly grateful for the efforts of all those in Slovakia who have opened their homes and their hearts to more than 100,000 Ukrainians who have received temporary protective status here after fleeing Russia’s unjust and brutal war.  The government, civil society, and countless well-meaning citizens have met this moment, providing for the most vulnerable in a time of desperation.  All of you here tonight have contributed to this effort.  Your compassion, dedication, and hospitality are inspirational.

We also remember tonight Muslims around the world who are forced to observe Ramadan under repression, detention, and grave humanitarian crises and those whose governments prevent them from observing Ramadan at all.   And we call for freedom of religion or belief for all, including for members of religious minority groups.  Let us work together to promote respect for human rights and dignity for all people.

Freedom to pursue one’s faith or chosen purpose is the foundation of open and prosperous societies.  These are shared values that have united the United States and Slovakia for the past 30 years and will continue to bind us together in the years to come.

Let us honor tonight the simple yet profound truth that all people are equal in dignity and rights.  The United States strongly supports freedom of religion or belief, including for members of religious minority communities worldwide.  We remain resolute in our commitment to advocating for human rights, combating antisemitism, fighting Islamophobic attitudes, and opposing all forms of hate.  We support the freedom of all individuals to practice their religion publicly, to change their religion, to speak publicly about their religion, and to teach others about their religion.  Everyone everywhere has the right to exercise this freedom, and I’m heartened to see such strong commitment here in this room.

As we prepare to break the fast together, let’s redouble our commitment to tolerance and religious freedom.  In that spirit, I hope this year’s Ramadan brings you peace, health, and a sense of connection.  Thank you all.

U.S. Department of State

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