In a recent speech at the Ahmadiyya Muslim #JalsaUSA, Knox Thames, a visiting expert from the U.S. Institute for Peace, highlighted the importance of interfaith solidarity in confronting religious persecution. Thames noted that religious minorities worldwide face discrimination and violence and that people of different faiths must unite to support one another.
Thames specifically addressed the plight of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Pakistan and other parts of the world. The Ahmadiyya Muslim community is a religious minority that has faced persecution and discrimination in Pakistan since the country's inception in 1947. In Pakistan, Ahmadis are considered non-Muslims and are prohibited from calling themselves Muslims or using Islamic terminology. They have faced violence, discrimination, and even death at the hands of extremist groups.
Thames praised the Ahmadiyya Muslim community for their commitment to peace and non-violence, despite the persecution they have faced. He also noted that the community has been at the forefront of efforts to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding. Thames emphasized that interfaith solidarity is essential in tackling religious persecution and that people of all faiths must work together to promote tolerance and respect for religious diversity.
Thames' remarks at the Ahmadiyya Muslim #JalsaUSA come at a time when religious persecution is on the rise around the world. In recent years, there has been a surge in violence against religious minorities in countries such as India, Myanmar, and China. In addition, religious minorities in the Middle East continue to face persecution and violence from extremist groups such as ISIS.
At the same time, there has been a growing movement of interfaith solidarity and cooperation to promote peace and understanding between people of different religions. Interfaith organizations such as the Parliament of the World's Religions and the United Religions Initiative have promoted dialogue and cooperation between people of different faiths for many years. In addition, religious leaders from different faiths have been coming together to condemn violence and promote peace.
Thames' remarks at the Ahmadiyya Muslim #JalsaUSA underscore the importance of this work. He emphasized that interfaith solidarity is not just a matter of promoting tolerance and respect for religious diversity, but also a matter of protecting the basic human rights of religious minorities. Thames noted that religious persecution often leads to human rights abuses such as torture, forced displacement, and even genocide.
Thames also highlighted the role that governments can play in promoting interfaith solidarity and protecting religious minorities. He noted that governments have a responsibility to protect the rights of all their citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs. He called on governments to take concrete steps to combat religious persecution, such as passing laws that protect religious minorities and holding accountable those who commit acts of violence.
Thames' remarks at the Ahmadiyya Muslim #JalsaUSA were met with applause and appreciation from the audience. Many attendees noted that they were inspired by his message of interfaith solidarity and committed to working together to promote peace and understanding between people of different religions.
In conclusion, Knox Thames' speech at the Ahmadiyya Muslim #JalsaUSA highlights the importance of interfaith solidarity in confronting religious persecution. Thames' remarks underscore the urgent need for people of different faiths to unite to promote tolerance, respect, and understanding and to protect the basic human rights of religious minorities. As religious persecution continues to be a major issue around the world, Thames' message serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of working together to promote peace and justice for all.
About Knox Thames:
Knox Thames is a renowned expert in religious freedom and human rights. He is currently a visiting expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where he works on issues related to religion and peacebuilding. Thames has also served as the Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia at the U.S. Department of State.
Throughout his career, Thames has been a vocal advocate for religious freedom and human rights. He has worked to promote interfaith dialogue and cooperation and has been a leading voice in efforts to combat religious persecution worldwide. Thames has also been a key player in shaping U.S. policy on religious freedom and human rights and has advised multiple U.S. administrations on these issues.
Thames has a deep understanding of the challenges facing religious minorities around the world. He has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and South Asia, meeting with religious leaders, human rights activists, and government officials to discuss religious freedom and human rights issues. He has also written extensively on these topics, and his work has been published in numerous academic journals and media outlets.
Thames' work has been widely recognized and praised. In 2019, he was awarded the International Religious Freedom Award by the U.S. Department of State, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to promoting religious freedom around the world. Thames has also been honored by numerous other organizations for his work on human rights and religious freedom.
Overall, Knox Thames is a leading expert on religious freedom and human rights, and his work has had a significant impact on the global conversation around these issues. His call for interfaith solidarity to combat religious persecution is an important reminder of the urgent need for people of different faiths to work together to promote peace, justice, and human rights for all.
Knox Thames Speech (Generated by YouTube):
Ladies and gentlemen, we are facing a pandemic that is sweeping the globe. However, it is not just COVID-19 that we are battling. There is a pandemic of religious persecution that is impacting our communities, people of all faiths, and even those who have none. The question is, what are we going to do about it? As Americans, as Muslims, as Christians, and as people of goodwill, we must raise our collective voice and say, "Enough!"
Religious freedom is a foundational freedom that represents the soul of the human rights system. It is where American interests and values meet. The United States should speak up for religious freedom because it reflects who we are as a country. It reflects American values, and it is an American distinctive. However, we should also speak up for religious freedom for everyone because it is in our interests. We know that countries that respect the religious rights of all their citizens are more peaceful, more prosperous, more stable, and better partners.
Thankfully, for the past 25 years, the United States has been a global leader in promoting religious freedom. This October, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act. It was groundbreaking legislation that a Republican Congress passed and a Democratic president signed into law, establishing religious freedom as a foreign policy priority. We have people like Ambassador Hussein and former Commissioner Manza who have been involved in this work, representing all of us overseas to promote this right.
However, we cannot rest on our laurels 25 years later because evil continues to find new ways to repress. It is crucial that everyone here lets their congressmen, senators, and even President Biden know that religious freedom matters for all. Of course, we know that your community faces consistent persecution in Pakistan, with increasing troubles in Indonesia and horrible terrorist attacks in Africa. Pressing governments to end discrimination against Ahmadiya Muslims, to protect their religious freedoms and ensure their equal citizenship must be a priority. But it will be tough.
I know that from when I served at the State Department in a special envoy role. I would meet with Pakistani officials and raise concerns about your community. I remember handing documents in two different meetings to the prime minister's human rights advisor and the chief justice minister of Punjab in Lahore, documenting the criminalization of Amari Muslim texts and documents, and the jailing of booksellers. But one meeting is not enough. The United States must consistently raise this issue. We must lead.
So it is up to all of us to insist that our country do more to help persecuted Ahmadiya Muslims, to end the religious apartheid system in Pakistan, and discrimination elsewhere. We must insist on setting captives free. And of course, while it is good and natural to speak up for our own, if we don't, who else will? We know that an environment with full religious freedom for everyone will ensure the brightest future for our brothers and sisters of the faith. So when we speak out for faith, we must speak out for others who are persecuted as well for their religion or belief.
I know for my 20 years of work doing and promoting religious freedom internationally that when one community is targeted, for sure, other communities also face great repression. There is solidarity in suffering, and there is solidarity in speaking up for all. I have been recently reading about this new philosophy of covenantal pluralism. It's a beautiful idea where we don't dumb down or pretend there aren't deep theological differences. We agree to disagree agreeably. But we are locked arm and arm fighting for the rights of everyone to pursue truth as their conscience leads. To have this Covenant that we can live together in a pluralistic society defending the rights of each other.
And I am happy to do this for your community. I love Ahmadiya Muslims. First, just because the founder of my faith, Jesus Christ, says we should love our neighbors. And as we know, sometimes some neighbors are harder to love than others. But Ahmadiya Muslims make it easy. The official slogan of your community, "Love for all, hatred for none," is beautifully said.
I've seen your communities in community work, helping others through blood drives or food drives. As someone from an evangelical background, I respect the zeal that you have for your faith. And as an international human rights lawyer, I know how leaders in your community have stood up for religious freedom dating back even to the founding of the U.N. When Zafarula Khan, the first foreign minister of Pakistan and Ahmadiya, defended the religious freedom provisions in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when the U.N General Assembly was considering to vote for it in 1948.