U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released online from January 1, 1997 to January 20, 2001. Please see www.state.gov for current material from the Department of State. Or visit http://2001-2009.state.gov for information from that period. Archive sites are not updated, so external links may no longer function. Contact us with any questions about finding information. NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.
U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad
Summary of February 13, 1997 Meeting
Washington, DC


Assistant Secretary John Shattuck, Chairman, convened the first meeting of the Advisory Board at 10 a.m. on February 13, 1997, in the Loy Henderson Room at the Department of State. He expressed pleasure at the high level of public interest and welcomed Advisory Board Members, noting that this committee is unique among advisory committees organized under the Federal Advisory Committee Act in that it reports to both the Secretary of State and the President.
He noted that The President, First Lady and Secretary of State have invited the committee to specific recommendations as to how the USG, working with non-governmental organizations and other countries, can take specific actions to promote freedom of religion and raise the issue's profile in our foreign policy.
Following Chairman Shattuck's opening remarks, each of the Advisory members made introductory remarks.
Chairman Shattuck then explained that the committee would, through two subgroups, undertake work in two areas: first, religious freedom and persecution abroad, focusing on the treatment of minorities; second, inter-religious cooperation to promote religious freedom, reconciliation and conflict resolution. The committee will address these topics intensively in coming months, working in subcommittees in preparation for the second public meeting which will take place in June, and then for the third meeting in the fall. The goal in the initial phase will be to reach an interim report and recommendations in these areas.
Chairman Shattuck referred the committee to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that "everyone has the right to freedom of thought and conscience and this right extends to freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice and observance," and to the legal explanation of that right appears in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He noted that International law provides the basis for the promotion of human rights and the USG will undergird the work of the Advisory Committee.
Secretary Albright briefly addressed the committee, emphasizing that: 1) religious freedom belongs squarely in any comprehensive discussion of American foreign policy; 2) freedom of religion has an impact that goes far beyond individuals and affects the international order; 3) freedom of religion is central to America's history and identity.
The morning session discussed core issues of persecution such as killings, torture, imprisonment and detention, freedom of association and expression, and the education of ones own children, along with political representation, marriage and conversion issues and proselytization.
The committee laid particular emphasis on persecution by governments, who are bound by the standards of international law. The committee also discussed the variety of tools at the USG's disposal, both bilateral and multilateral. Asylum procedures were also discussed.
Chairman Shattuck noted the committee's bureaucratic placement in the State Department which will give its research and recommendations global reach.
The discussion crystallized three particular foci for the subgroup on persecution: 1) To enhance our understanding of the state of persecution around the world; 2) To elucidate standards and priorities and forms of persecution; 3) Specific recommendations on how the USG can better address religious persecution and promote religious freedom.
The afternoon session focused on the work of the subgroup on conflict resolution. Chairman Shattuck noted that around the world there are devastating conflicts, many based in religious differences manipulated by cynical leaders who seek their own advantage by pitting religion against religion, ethnic group against ethnic group. At the same time, many religious leaders and communities are doing innovative and deeply valuable work towards resolving conflicts, promoting reconciliation among antagonistic groups and fostering civil society.
Among the issues raised were: 1) The work of religious institutions who are involved in reconciliation or conflict resolution in conflicts that may not involve religion at all; 2) The role of religious leaders in fostering civil society and democratic transition; 3) Improving coordination with religious organizations that are involved in conflict resolution; 4) Understanding the grievances of religious movements; 5) The relationship among peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peacebuilding; 6) The role of rule of law and institutions of justice in insuring religious freedom, conflict resolution, and reconciliation.
The committee then heard comments from the public on:
-- Persecution of Christians in Pakistan;
-- Persecution in the former Soviet Union and lessons from the Soviet Jewry movement;
-- Efforts to promote tolerance and dialogue in the Muslim world;
-- Persecution of Christians and the issue of proselytizing;
-- Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses;
-- Persecution of Christians in the Sudan;
-- Persecution of Baha'is in Iran;
-- U.S.-Muslim tensions;
-- Persecution of the Yoga school of Buenos Aires.
The committee closed its public meeting with the issuing of a first statement, the assignment of duties for the two subgroups, and arrangements for coordination between the first meeting and the second public meeting to be held in June.

[end of document]


Great Seal Return to the DOSFAN Home Page. Return to the Secretary's Home Page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.