Secretary of State Refers to Persecution of Bahá'ís
Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright said on 23 January in Washington that the public response to Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba illustrated a deep human longing to worship and she strongly endorsed calls for an intensified U.S. focus on religious freedom worldwide.
She was speaking at a news conference called to discuss a new report by the government's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, established a year ago and composed of leading scholars on religion. This committee has found that followers of all major religions – Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Bahá'ís and others – are "discriminated against, harassed, detained, tortured and killed.''
The report, by the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, criticized Iran for allegedly trying to eliminate the Bahá'í faith and harassing and persecuting Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian communities. It faulted Moscow for a law denying legal rights based on how long a religion has had a presence in Russia.
The panel urged the United States to do more to promote religious freedom worldwide, including making it a criteria for arms sales, aid and granting asylum to refugees. It said President Clinton should deliver a major speech on the importance of religious freedom and give the issue ''enhanced importance'' in foreign policy decision making.
Albright enthusiastically embraced the panel's work. She said she would immediately comply with a key suggestion by naming a new senior level coordinator to focus on advancing religious freedom worldwide.
"I consider the promotion of religious freedom to be an integral component of U.S. foreign policy to be pursued not in isolation, but as part of our efforts to increase the respect for human rights around the world,'' she said.