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The Washington Times: Faith groups call for greater efforts to promote tolerance

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Tina Ramirez, Becket Fund Director of International and Government Relations, comments on religious persecution at a conference held at the Washington Times.

Religious leaders and activists from a variety of faiths called for tolerance of one another and said the U.S. government should step up efforts to fight faith-based discrimination and persecution around the world.

“Everyone should have the right to believe or not believe,” said Suzan Johnson Cook, who was confirmed this year as the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. “That is their God-given right.”

Several speakers at the daylong conference “Stop Religious Persecution Now,” held at The Washington Times, spoke in favor of a bill before Congress proposed by Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, that would boost the State Department’s role as an advocate for religious freedom abroad.

Provisions of the bill would give U.S. Foreign Service officers new training on promoting religious freedom, shine a brighter spotlight on countries identified as restricting religious liberties and reauthorize the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Among those at the event were Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Other religions also were represented. Speakers and participants included lawmakers and administration officials, religious freedom advocates and representatives from such groups as the Center for Understanding Islam, the Hindu America Foundation and ChinaAid.

The event was co-sponsored by the U.S. chapter of the Universal Peace Federation and The Washington Times Foundation.

The faith activists said there was strength in unity in the fight against religious discrimination.

“The problem is that no faith community is safe,” said Tina Ramirez, director of government relations at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “You might be the persecutor in one but the persecuted in another. So, unfortunately, religious persecution knows no bounds.”

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