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Religious freedom: A shared value between the United States and Jamaica

Eric
Khant

Thursday, July 11, 2019

In my remarks celebrating the 243rd anniversary of American Independence, I emphasised that the United States' enduring partnership with Jamaica was grounded on a foundation of 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 live in a country with restrictions or outright hostility towards the enjoyment of their religious freedom.

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. Terrorism and violent extremism decrease while economic growth and opportunity increase. 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 ground-breaking 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, identify means to address religious persecution, and promote greater respect of religious liberty for all.

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. In fact, not only is freedom of religion constitutionally protected in Jamaica, the local media continues to be an open forum for discussion of religious matters.

Given our shared commitment to religious liberty, as a follow-on to the ministerial, the US Embassy will later this year host a round-table discussion with Jamaican religious leaders and youth groups. We intend to have context-specific discussions on the role religion can play in addressing social development challenges in Jamaica and the broader Caribbean region.

The US Government therefore remains resolute in its commitment to develop collaborative approaches to promote religious freedom globally.

 

Eric Khant is the chargé d' affaires at the United States Embassy in Kingston.