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For God or for US?
The new Ambassador needs to introduce the right thought process
05/08/2010

As he faces the heat of ‘dis’approval ratings as President, commendable things also get done under Obama’s administration. A case in point was the nominating of the Ambassador-at-Large for the International Religious Freedom (IRF) of the US State Department. Though it created little more than a flutter in the media fraternity, its importance is hard to overstate.

A survey done by Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life in coordination with United Nations, US State Department and Human Rights Watch has revealed that around one-third of the countries in the world have high or very high restrictions on religious freedom. Over 70% of the world population has restrictions in terms of freely practicing their religion, imposed either by governments or individuals or organizations. Even region-wise, while North and South American states have low restrictions on religion freedom, Middle Eastern and North African nations have strict restrictions. In 75 countries, governments have limited the efforts of religious groups to proselytise. Interestingly, while India has moderate to high levels of government restrictions but high level of social hostility, China has high level of government restrictions but moderate or low level of social hostilities.

Moreover, it has become extremely important to bring world’s most widely followed religions on one platform. This, in a way, can reduce restrictions over religious practices, curb human rights abuses and help mitigate inter-religious hostilities. Unfortunately, the ambassador of the US IRF plays more of a diplomatic role with countries like Iran, China, Burma et al, rather than playing the religous role. It is important for the US IRF now to stop acting as yet another front to fulfil the diplomatic initiatives of the US government; it has to focus on the larger goal that justifies its existence.

By:- Akram Hoque
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