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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at the Columbus School of Law, The Catholic University
Washington, DC, October 23, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, October 24, 1997
U.S. Department of State

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As delivered

Religious Freedom
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Dean Dobranski, for that introduction. And President Larson, thank you very much for that present. I have to open the Marine Marathon this weekend, and now I know what I can wear.
Faculty, students, guests and friends, good afternoon. It's a pleasure to join with you in observing the centennial of Catholic University's Columbus School of Law. During the past few years, it seems we have celebrated the 50th anniversary of everything from D-Day to the founding of the United Nations to the Marshall Plan. So it's nice to know that there's something--besides myself--that is more than fifty years old.
It is also nice to know that in a year when the fighting Irish are having their troubles--the fighting Cardinals are 7-0.
Obviously, much has changed since the first half dozen students took their initial classes here. In 1897, gold had just been discovered in the Yukon. The first subway in the United States was being completed in Boston. William McKinley was the President. And the United States Secretary of State had a beard.
It was also a time when the prevailing mood in our country and around the world was one of anticipation and hope. Our grandparents and their parents looked out upon a world being brought closer together by such amazing inventions as the motor car, the telephone and the electric light.
Diplomats gathered at the Hague were expanding the scope of international humanitarian law. And editorial writers were looking ahead to the new century and predicting an era of unprecedented peace and good will.
There followed two world wars, several attempted genocides, the Holocaust, and the bloodiest hundred years in human history.
Today, we, too, are about to begin a new century. We, too, live in a hopeful era of relative peace and startling technological change. And as we look to the future, we know that we, too, will be tested by the clash between what is the best and worst in human character; between our most selfish and aggressive instincts and what Abraham Lincoln referred to as the better angels of our nature.
This contest will be engaged on many fronts, and it will have many elements. Today, I'd like to focus on one that has been increasingly in the news lately and that I believe will continue to play a significant role in US foreign policy and in the affairs of the world. That is the ceaseless quest for religious freedom and tolerance.
In the United States, we believe in the separation of church and state. Our Constitution reflects the fear of religious persecution that prompted many in the 17th and 18th centuries to set sail for American shores. But this principle has never blinded us to religion's impact on secular events, whether for the worse, as when intolerance contributes to conflict and strife; or for the better, as when faith serves as a source of moral inspiration and healing.
There are many examples of the latter in recent years, thanks to leaders of many faiths from many lands, including the efforts of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on behalf of the environment and inter-ethnic understanding; the eloquence of Archbishop Tutu in helping to consign apartheid to the dustbin of history; the inspiring and culturally-transcending ministry of Mother Teresa; and most dramatically, the historic contributions made by Pope John Paul II to the cause of freedom.
As a native of Central Europe, and as a professor who has lectured on the region, I will never forget the impact of the Pope's visit to his native Poland while the nation was still behind the Iron Curtain and under martial law. Those visits were arranged by the church, and not the state. And the outpouring of enthusiasm astonished the government, which had assumed that years of dictatorship had caused religious faith to erode. They were wrong; for rarely has a message so important found such a receptive audience. And never has a people been made aware so suddenly of their own inner feelings and collective strength.
His Holiness argued that if people are to fulfill their responsibility to live according to moral principles, they must first have the right and ability to do so. In this spirit, he spoke with carefully chosen words of the need for solidarity with workers and among all human beings. In this spirit, he challenged the dogmas of the Communist system, which denied to millions the right to speak freely and to participate in shaping the social and political systems of their societies. In this spirit, he challenged the artificial division that Stalin had imposed by reasserting the fundamental unity of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. And in this way, he helped unleash a tidal wave of intellectual renewal and personal courage that helped bring down the Berlin Wall and transform the face of the world.
Now as we strive to shape this new era, it is an important part of American policy to promote greater freedom of religion and to encourage reconciliation among religious groups. We take this stand because it is consistent with our values, and because it is one of the reasons people around the world have chosen at critical times in this century to stand with us. We believe that nations are stronger, and the lives of their people richer, when citizens have the freedom to choose, proclaim and exercise their religious identity.
We have also learned that the denial of religious freedom or threats to it can cause fear, flight, fighting and even all-out war. So we have developed a focus in our policy on regions where religious divisions have combined with other factors to engender violence or endanger peace. To implement our policy, we have publicly identified the promotion of religious freedom as a foreign policy priority.
I have instructed US diplomats to provide frequent and thorough reports on the status of religious freedom in the countries to which they are accredited. Second, we have intensified the spotlight given to religious freedom in the reports we issue annually on human rights practices around the world. Third, we are modifying our procedures for reviewing requests for political asylum to ensure that those fleeing religious persecution are treated fairly. Fourth, we promote religious freedom through our foreign broadcasting, by sponsoring programs and exchanges that foster understanding, and through our work in international organizations such as the UN Human Rights Commission and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Fifth, we often raise issues related to religious freedom with foreign governments and their representatives.
That was the case, for example, earlier this year when I discussed restrictions on religious activity in Vietnam and, more recently, when President Clinton raised with President Yeltsin our serious concerns about Russia's new law on religion.
Next week, during the US-China summit, we will be stressing to President Jiang Zemin the importance of respecting the religious heritage of the people of Tibet and of ensuring that China's growing Christian community is allowed to worship freely, without harassment or intimidation.
Finally, we reinforced our commitment to religious tolerance last winter when my predecessor, Warren Christopher, established an Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad. The Committee includes distinguished scholars, activists and religious leaders representing the major spiritual traditions in the United States. Its purpose is to help direct attention to the problem of religious persecution abroad and to provide advice on how to achieve reconciliation in areas now sundered by religious enmity. In February, I chaired the first meeting of the Committee and I look forward to its recommendations and observations later this year.
As we proceed with our efforts to promote religious freedom, we should be mindful of one danger, which is the possibility that--as we pursue the right goal--we may choose the wrong means. For example, legislation has been introduced in Congress that would create a White House Office for Religious Persecution Monitoring that would automatically impose sanctions against countries where religious freedoms are not fully observed.
Although well-intentioned, this bill would create an artificial hierarchy among human rights with the right to be free from torture and murder shoved along with others into second place. It would also establish a new and unneeded bureaucracy and deprive US officials of the flexibility required to protect the overall foreign policy interests of the United States.
I have said many times -- for I believe it in my heart and have experienced it in my life -- that the United States is the greatest and most generous nation on the face of the Earth. But even the most patriotic among us must admit that neither morality, nor religious freedom, nor respect for human rights were invented here--nor are they perfectly practiced here.
It is in our interest, and it is essential to our own identity, for America to promote religious freedom and human rights. But if we are to be effective in defending the values we cherish, we must also take into account the perspectives and values of others. We must recognize that our relations with the world are not fully encompassed by any single issue or set of issues. And we must do all we can to ensure that the world's attention is focused on the principles we embrace, not diverted by the methods we use.
Perhaps the clearest intersection between American interests and the principle of religious tolerance occurs in regions where ethnic and religious differences contribute to division and the risk of violence. Here, the United States works to persuade parties of their mutual stake in learning to get along and their mutual responsibility for doing so. For example, President Clinton has been personally involved in encouraging multi-party talks aimed at achieving a durable settlement to the dispute in Northern Ireland.
Those talks resumed recently, following a cease-fire declaration by the IRA, which shares with Unionist paramilitary groups the responsibility for maintaining a climate of nonviolence. We are very proud of the role that former Senator George Mitchell has played in establishing the framework for discussion. And we will continue to support ecumenical initiatives aimed at bridging differences between the Catholic and Protestant communities, and at addressing long-standing problems of economic inequity and discrimination.
In Bosnia, we are working to promote reconciliation in a land that has literally been torn apart by conflict among three communities of differing ethnicity and religious faith. To that end, we have reinvigorated our commitment to the implementation of the Dayton peace accords. And although many serious obstacles remain, we have made significant progress in recent months.
For example, municipal elections have been held; and it is clear from the results that many Bosnians do not want, and will not accept, a country permanently frozen along ethnic lines. They want to go home and, in fact, the return of refugees and displaced persons has increased.
In addition, the cause of justice received a boost earlier this month when ten persons indicted for war crimes surrendered to the Tribunal in the Hague. The cause of security has benefited from the destruction of thousands of heavy weapons. The cause of truth has been served by a substantial increase in independent television and radio broadcasting. The cause of prosperity is gaining ground in those communities that are implementing the Dayton accords. And the goal of reconciliation is being advanced by the emergence of a new leader of the Bosnian Serbs, who appears to understand that implementing Dayton is the key to a decent future for her people.
Many Americans, when they think of Sarajevo, may remember the Olympics held there in 1984. But the Sarajevo of that time was also the ecumenical city--host to mosques, churches--both Catholic and Orthodox, and synagogues, as well. So when cynics suggest that the people of Bosnia cannot live together, I can only say but they did, they have, they must and they will again.
In building peace, momentum matters. So I was encouraged by the Pope's visit in April to Sarajevo where he delivered a passionate plea for reconciliation and inter-ethnic healing. I was pleased by the decision in June of the leaders of the faith communities in Bosnia to create a joint council to promote respect for human rights and to issue a Statement of Shared Moral Commitment. And I welcome the address earlier this month by the new Archbishop of Zagreb, who expressed warmth towards the leaders of other faiths in his country and cited the need for - and I quote -- "the people of spirit who will bring understanding, negotiations and peace to an excessively radicalized and tense public life."
Community and religious leaders play a vital role in Bosnia and throughout the Balkans; for the ethnic hatred that splintered that region was not a natural phenomenon. It was not something in the water or a virus carried through the air. Rather, it was injected into the informational bloodstream; it was taught, published, broadcast, and yes, even preached over and over again. And the fears aroused were manipulated by ruthless leaders for the purpose of enhancing their own position, power and wealth.
The physical and psychological wounds that resulted from the devastation of Bosnia were deep and will take time and treatment to heal. The United States has made a commitment, which we should keep, to assist and persist in that healing process.
There are some who see in the rivalries that exist in the Balkans and elsewhere -- in the Middle East, the Gulf, Africa and Asia -- the potential for a vast clash of civilizations, in which differences not only of spiritual tradition but of culture, history and ideology divide the world into bitter contending camps. The United States has a different view.
We are the defender of no one faith, but the respecter of all and of the right of all to proclaim and exercise faith. We are friends with nations in which the predominant religion is Buddhist, and others where it is Christian or Hindu or Islamic or Jewish. We are, ourselves, a nation of all these faiths and more, and of those without religious faith and of those within whom such faith and doubt engage in constant struggle.
In our policy towards other nations, we do not act or judge on the basis of religion or cultural tradition, but on behavior, on compliance with international norms. And when those norms are not observed, we express our opposition to the acts in question, not to the religion of those involved.
For this reason, we reject stereotypes; for we know that actions in violation of international standards, including extremist violence and terror, are not the province of any particular religion, culture or part of the world.
In recent years, we have seen bloody acts of terrorism committed by Hindu separatists in Sri Lanka and Kurdish separatists in Turkey. We have seen a Jewish man who had been raised in the United States murder 29 Arabs while they were at prayer in a Hebron mosque. We have seen a Japanese cult release poison gas in the Tokyo subway. We have seen Islamic suicide bombers destroy the lives of people riding on buses or shopping in the streets of Jerusalem. We have seen extremists engaged in a grisly campaign of terror against their co-religionists in Algeria. And we have heard Serbian leaders justify the campaign of ethnic cleansing and mass rape inflicted upon Muslims in Bosnia as a defense, in their words, of "Christian Europe."
Clearly, the central conflict in the world today is not between the adherents of one religion or culture and another. Rather it is between those of all cultures and faiths who believe in law, want peace and embrace tolerance and those driven, whether by ambition, desperation or hate to commit acts of aggression and terror.
The great divide now is not between east and west or north and south, but between those imprisoned by history and those determined to shape history.
Almost half a century ago, the nations of the world enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the principle that every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. To those who argue that the Universal Declaration reflects western values alone, I would point to the first Afro-Asian Solidarity Conference held in Indonesia more than four decades ago. There, the representatives of 29 nations from China to Saudi Arabia and from Sudan and Libya to Iran and Iraq cited the Universal Declaration as "a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations." And countries on every continent reaffirmed the Declaration just four years ago at the Vienna Conference on Human Rights.
Today, our great opportunity in the aftermath of Cold War and the divisions is to bring the world closer together around shared principles of democracy, open markets, law, human rights and a commitment to peace.
For almost as many years as I have been alive, the United States has played the leading role within the international system; not as sole arbiter of right and wrong, for that is a responsibility widely shared, but as pathfinder--as the nation able to show the way when others cannot.
Now we have reached a point in history when no nation need be left out of the global system, and every nation that seeks to participate and is willing to do all it can to aid itself will have our help in finding the right path.
In that effort, religious freedom and tolerance are among the great principles we strive to defend. By so doing, we maintain the vigor of our own freedoms; we serve our interest in a world where civilizations cooperate and communicate instead of clash and collide; and we honor not one, but all of the great spiritual traditions that lend meaning to our time here on Earth.
By teaching the rule of law and broadening the horizons of a new generation of leaders, this great school of law and this fine Catholic University are contributing to the goals of freedom and tolerance upon which our future depends. For that, I congratulate you. I wish you another 100 years, at least, of prosperity and progress. And for the invitation to speak today, I thank you very much.
DEAN DOBRANKSI: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary, for that most timely, informative presentation. The Secretary has graciously agreed to answer some questions. People were asked to submit the questions in advance. Members of our staff have gone through them, and Carl Larson, the President of the Student Bar Association, will present the question to the Secretary, and you'll provide the answer.
PRESIDENT LARSON: First question. Will NATO enlargement cause a weakening of the Alliance, or worse, a split between poor nations in need of equipment and training and the nations who will provide this?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the issue of NATO enlargement is one of the most interesting debates of this day, because it is a reflection of the change in the international system that came about with what, in foreign policy terms, would be an earthquake - with the falling apart of the Soviet Union. The enlargement of NATO is the appropriate response to that.
I have just been on Capitol Hill yesterday, or the day before, testifying with Secretary Cohen in one of our many joint appearances on the subject of NATO enlargement; and have been asked by some people who said, if it ain't broke, why are you fixing it?
But the problem is that NATO, as it is currently structured, does not reflect the new post-Cold War world, and therefore, while it is the leading alliance of our time, it could become irrelevant if it did not expand to suit what the current international situation is.
Europe was divided artificially at the end of the Second World War, and the countries that were part of the Warsaw Pact were there against their will. Therefore, that is the artificial dividing line. By inviting them to join, we are getting rid of an artificial line and creating a world that the President has called for, which is a united and free Europe.
Now, the basis of what we are doing with NATO enlargement is to keep in mind the principle that NATO has to be made stronger by the enlargement, and not weakened by it. Therefore, the countries that were invited in this first tranche - Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - were those that the current NATO members believed were capable of accepting the privilege and responsibilities of belonging to the prime military alliance of history.
They are already in the process of presenting their plans of how to become members of NATO. And we have also - all NATO members - stated, NATO is open to all democracies and market systems. As they become ready, they will be accepted. But they are, many of them - all of them, frankly - are within an organization called the Partnership for Peace, where they are being brought along.
So I do not think that there will be this kind of a distinction between those who are in and those who are not, because ultimately they are all working their way towards membership in NATO. I feel very strongly that the enlargement of NATO is a very good thing for American national interests; because, as all of you know, the two world wars started in Central and Eastern Europe. That is an area of instability, and if there is any problem in Europe now, it is the fact that we want to make sure that there is not instability.
I can see I'm getting right back into the swing of teaching - giving very long answers.
PRESIDENT LARSON: The next question - China is known for many human rights abuses, including the persecution of Catholics. How can you justify engaging with China?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, this is a very germane question, given the fact that we are on the eve of a summit with the Chinese leaders.
Let me make, again, very clear that as we look at the post-Cold War world, we are developing relationships with countries that allow us to have strategic relations and discussions which are good for American national interests, and talk to the countries that are powers now and will become powers. China clearly falls into that category as the most populous country with a huge land mass and a dominant role in Asia and, ultimately, with a global role which they exercise in the United Nations and in other places.
Therefore, it behooves the United States to have a relationship with China. We believe it's very important to engage with them and to engage with them across the board on issues of national interest.
I think you will see, as we move into the summit discussions, that we are very interested in making sure that they are increasingly part of a variety of arms control regimes so that there is not an increase in proliferation. They have, in the last years, systematically accepted many of the international rules in terms of nonproliferation, and signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the CTBT, and a variety of other regimes. They have also been very helpful in a number of regional issues - especially as far as the Korean talks are concerned.
Now, having said that, I would like to make clear that while we engage with China, we do not endorse everything that they do. We have made very clear that their human rights record is not such that we can endorse. We have all - whether the President or I or other members of the Administration - every time we meet with the Chinese, we make very clear that we want to see a major improvement in their human rights record. And we will continue to do that.
But I think it's important, as we look at the relationships - as we move into the 21st Century - what they will be like, I think that you would all agree that it would be foolish for the United States not to engage in a multi-faceted relationship with a country of the size and importance of China.
PRESIDENT LARSON: What is your most difficult task or duty on a day-to-day basis?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Actually, I don't know whether you would all believe this, but I love my job. I feel highly honored to have been asked to be Secretary of State - an honor I never thought would happen, being one, foreign born, and two, a woman.
The fact that President Clinton asked me to take on this job, I think, is a sign of the opportunity and generosity not only of the President, but of the American people.
So I get up every day and I think, this is a great job. But it's not without its problems in that it is hard to do foreign policy these days, and I'll tell you why. That is because the American people, to a great extent, were told that everything was over with our winning of the Cold War, and that we didn't have to worry about the rest of the world anymore. That is simply not true.
While I am very ready to agree to the fact that there is a very large domestic agenda, as we move into the 21st Century, it is absolutely essential and clear to me that if the United States doe not engage internationally, then we will not be able to give to our people the economy and the strength that we need at home.
I think I will eternally be punished for a statement I made when I was in junior high, when I was asked, what is the relationship between domestic and foreign policy. I remember saying, none.
And I am haunted by that, because all I do now is talk about the fact that the two are completely integrated. When I got involved in political campaigns - I have to tell you, now that I'm Secretary of State, I have had all my political instincts surgically removed. But when I did politics, I used to be in campaigns and say that domestic and foreign policy were the same thing - basically to make myself important. But now it is totally true - that there is no division between domestic and foreign policy. But the problem is to have the American people really understand it.
At this very moment - and I just gave a speech at another location - it is very important for the US Congress to give us what is known as Fast Track legislation so that the President can negotiate trade agreements. There are those who believe that that is bad for American workers. We are arguing that it's actually good for American workers, because Americans are the greatest beneficiary of an international system, whether it's economic or as part of an overall culture that we all belong in.
So I think the hardest part of my job is really persuading everybody that what I'm doing is important.
PRESIDENT LARSON: In light of writing, such as Francis Fukiyama's end of history proposition, what do you see as the foremost obstacle to United States security in the context of emerging global democracy?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, there is no end of history. I think that I may have made a statement I regret in junior high; I think probably that book may be something that does not bear out.
Let me just say that when I got to the UN, because I was a professor - and will always be a professor - I was trying to give some organizational thought to what it was that I was seeing. When I arrived at the UN, there were 183 countries that were members; now there are 185. So I was trying to kind of group them in my mind. I decided that there were really four groups of nations.
The largest group were those who were good international citizens; who understood that there was a system of some kind. And whether we agreed with their form of government, they did understand that there were some rules that had to be abided by. This is the largest group.
The second group are those that are the countries in transition that are moving towards democracy and market systems; who would like to be members in good standing of that first group, but who do not yet have all the institutional structures to do it.
The third group are the rogue states - those who not only do not feel that they have a stake in the international system, but on the contrary, believe that dismantling it is to their advantage. The fourth group are those basically basket-case states that are kind of wards of the system.
What is the long-term goal, and I think the challenge - rather than the end of history, the beginning of it - is for all those three groups to move into the first group so that the long-term vision of not just American foreign policy, but those of other democracies, is to give support to the countries in transition. And I was very interested - the Dean was telling me about your relationship with the law school in Krakov, Poland. That is exactly the kind of thing that I'm talking about - giving support to developing institutions.
The rogues need to be reformed, and the basket-case states need to be brought out of their problems and brought into the community.
So that is how one has to see the challenge of the creation of many more states and the long-term role that we all see for ourselves in order to make for a better society for Americans to live in.
Let me just make that point - and it tacks on to what I said earlier. It is the duty of all of us who represent the United States to get the best for the American people. And somebody asked me what the theory of foreign policy was. The theory of foreign policy is that you try to influence the behavior of other countries for the benefit of your own. Therefore, what we want to do is to get the best for our national interests. And I believe that American national interests are best served when surrounded by democracies with free market systems. Democracies do not go to war with each other.
PRESIDENT LARSON: And your final question is --
PRESIDENT LARSON: Many diverse groups particularly identify with you - immigrants, women, Jews and Catholics. How, if at all, does you identification with these groups affect your world view and your performance as Secretary of State?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that I have - I guess for all those reasons - seen myself as a minority. When I arrived at the United Nations, I made it a point to reach out to many of the third world countries and develop bonds with them on the basis of partnership; because I think that, as I have stated many times - and even here - there is no doubt in my mind that the United States is the sole super power and the leading country in the world. But we cannot do it alone, nor do we want to do it alone. Rather than treating other countries as if they are our clients, we need to treat them as if they are our partners, and reach out to them. So I think in that way, my own minority background would lead me to understand the importance of being treated with respect.
But I also think that what I have found is that no matter who of those various groups I am, that I am the American Secretary of State. And I see everything through the vantage of how to achieve American national interests.
I thank you very, very much for your attention this afternoon. It's great to be back at a university. It makes me realize there's life after my job. Thank you.
(Laughter and applause.)

[End of Document]

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