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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  April 7, 2016 6:30pm-7:01pm EDT

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had been dreaming about for so long. >> getting to the heart of the matter. proud to tell your stories. al jazeera america. open a church that's not government authorised in china and risk going to jail. are practice islam in burma or the car, you may be driven from your home by a mob. -- driven from your home. you could lose your liberty and life. freedom of religion is under threat in month many corners of the globe. the u.s. has an aambassador at large keeping tabs on freedom.
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reverend is my guest. under fire is the inside story. welcome to inside story. i'm ray suarez. freedom of religion, your protection with government trying to interfere with your practice or hinder your desire to believe nothing at all sets the u.s. and set the u.s. apart from much of the world. today in 2016 it doesn't seem like such a revolutionary idea, but in 1789 it was stunning. a given here, perhaps, but religious freedom is not an accepted idea in many places.
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there are laws against blasphemy, talk against god, used to punish dissent, apoctic yfshgs, renouncing religious belief, dropping out can get you killed. since 1998 the u.s. has an ambassador at large for rereligious freedom. there has been no shortage of suffering to monitor. an easter attack in pakistan where the city's small christian minority was gathering. the killing of yazidis in western iraq and syria, hounding of killing of muslims in the car, a freedom under fire this time on the program. i'm pleased to welcome the ambassador at large for religious freedom. there has been so much in the news on this area that i felt that it was really important to get you in here.
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we see people's right to make up their own mind on this issue. they're really under threat, if not initially, then it's not valued as a society-wide threat. we're so used to having ambassadors to places that it's unusual to have an ambassador to an idea. isn't that what you are? >> there are six ambassadors are global responsibilities, global health, women's right, counter terrorism, human trafficking. i'm honoured to hold the position that focuses on religious freedom eight global level. this is something new and it has been very welcomed in many corners across the globe, both by oppressed and persecuted minorities but other communities
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that are committed to the structure of human rights law when you walk into a ministry and you walk across that big expansive carpet to shake hands, are you something that you want to see? >> when you represent the president of the united states, you're someone they want to see. they may know that we have significant differences. if they engage in infringement on human rights and religious freedom of their citizens and people in their cup, but they always want to have good relations with united states or at least to deal with the united states as such an extraordinarily influential country all across the globe. there is that level of acceptance and i think most countries, even though there are pressing freedoms, i think most always don't always see themselves that way. they're looking for some kind of individual indication or--
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vindication or validation for people to fight terrorism, to keep communal strike minimise, that they feel they're doing in the interest of their people and they want to find ways to validate it. they're willing to engage in significant conversations that's exactly it. there you are, you're on a mission to country x and you say, look, we have some concerns about what we're hearing. we've got reports, this and this, and the minister says, "we're not doing that. we don't do that". where do you go from there? >> remind them of the commitments under international law, article 18. it's very clear about the fundamental right of religious freedom, the right to choose your religion, live out your life in accordance with your religious conscience. these are all internationally protected rights. we remind them of the obligation
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and make them true which is true in the general human rights field that if they're going to be systemically infringing on the freem domestics of their people, it will impede the relationship they want on economic grounds and other interests in the u.s. we have a number of tools that can help us be effective in pursuit of that, both combhik tools and political-- economic tools and political tools and moral tools that are available to us that are very helpful in keeping countries to change their policies you've just come back from vietnam. a country that has long been officially atheist, but has buddhists as well. how is it received? this is a country that wants to get a clean bill of health on this score >> it is a good model of the dynamics i was mentioning. they very much want to have a
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good bill of health because they are hopeful congress will ratify the tpp treaty and in addition to which they regard themselves correctly as an influential player in that region of the world. they know what they do is often cited by what other countries do. they want to know what the international community is appreciative and acknowledges their leadership in ways that the international community finds disruptive. so i go to a country like that and i will meet with government officials. it may not happen in the sequence, but they're groupings. government officials, top official at the foreign ministry, the security services, their council on religious affairs, committee on religious affairs that deals with over seeing religious affairs in the country, and we went to the central high lands where ethnic
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minorities live who feel pressured in terms of their religious life than they do in other areas of the country and we meet with officials there. we met with religious leaders to finds out exactly what their situation is, what their hopes are for changes that would allow them to live more freely and then we meet with civil society leaders to try and encourage them to engage in their work with the stronger civil society to be sure that they're speaking to religious freedom as well and standing up for the segments that are persecuted. in this case vietnam is a good example of where there seems to be some real progress. there is some ebb and flow, some bad things, arrests of unregistered churches, but they're given more space for the registered churches to live their lives fully, for unregistered churches, beginning with a regulation passed in 2005
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that has been expanded to allow unregistered churches, to live more openly and more freely. first signs that they're allowing religious communities to engage in so social welfare and projects that those groups feel is part of their mission that they've been denied doing. we're seeing much testing of openness. they're writing a huge comprehensive law for the first time about freedom of religion and when that began a year ago, it was built disappointing, but-- a bit disappointing, but communities were engaged for feedback. in the fifth draft we're seeing some significant improvements and if by october when the final version will be voted on by the national aseem blee, it embodies the freedoms that are there and expands them which we've
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encouraged, this can help millions of people in vietnam. the govern will have played a small part, but i hope effective part, to change lives for the religious communities in vietnam religious liberty, a freedom under fire. stay with us. it's "inside story".. >> coming up tonight, we'll have the latest... >> does the government give you refugee status? >> they've marched to the border. >> thousands have taken to the streets here in protest. >> this is where gangs bury their members. >> they're tracking climate change.
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you're watching inside story. i'm ray suarez. freedom under fire. threats to religion around the world. there must be times, and you can name names if you like, it's better if you do, where somebody says to you, this is an american value. we get that. it's a western value, rich country value, certainly, but it's not our values. we p want, and we're pretty tired of being lectured by western world about these kinds of things, we want to run our own affairs inside our own borders and we rr a country that is defined by this religious order. this way of doing things. leave us alone >> there are certainly countries like that. one can think of saudi arabia that says their muslim values, as they understand it, the
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religious requirements, that there only be islam on the arabian peninsula precludes allowing other religions to function openly there. the maldives has a similar argument. there are april handful of countries that we hear that a lot from. however, even with those countries they are willing to talk with us, they are making improvements. saudi arabia was working a while on their textbooks and made some improvements and were engaged in conversations now to encourage them to continue to reform the rest of their textbooks on these issues. they have eased some of the restrictions about the house churches that they allow to function. they can't function openly, but if they're doing it in their private homes, the religious police have clearly been instructed over the last decade
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to allow a little bit more freedom. every step we take on that is an important step. there remain one to ten countries that are listed in particular concern, countries that have violations of religious freedom, but in most of those countries, ones like north korea being an exception, we're working to get what progress is possible to get out of our bilateral relations. they talk to us about their values and interests and we talk about ours. they make another argument which is one dealing with counter terrorism and combatting violent extremism. if you force people to choose between obeying their religious conscience and living by the ruling of the land and regulations of the government and you force their religious practice underground, you create
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a field that extremists say you can't live the religious life within the system. work with us and we will change the system. they will be more tempted to listening to extremists. there are strategic reasons that we have encouraged countries to loosen their views. there is enormous pressure on saudi arabia in capturing some of the frustration in their own country. we see this across the globe and it is a strong argument for an incentive to ease up on over broad reactions to security concerns that will fill people with the kind of frustration and despair that leads them to listen to extremists there are multiple places like in pakistan where someone can denounce you to a police station, say, i heard this person say that god is not greatly, that god of islam is actually a filthy god or make up a quote and you get arrested.
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you have to put on a defense in court. you have to defend yourselves against a will of a wh ishg sp of a charge where a civil process is put in train to test whether or not you've said something out of turn about a religion and you're in pretty big danger as we've seen >> we have strongly opposed b, lasphemy laws or any law that says somebody articulates verbally or in the way that they live their life, but doesn't interfere with other people, is so offensive that they can be sent to jail and punished and subject to the death penalty because of the heart-felt practice of their religious beliefs. you have that amadia muslims, a smaller muslim group who hold different views and the majority of muslims do shia and sunni
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controlled areas. they can be arrested on some of these charges depending on the interpretation. normative ils lamb would not see the minorities as bla-- bla; phemous. many live in fear every day. we push very hard to encourage countries to find alternate ways, not using the legal system to deal with this. resolution 1618 of the united nations lays out a nonpunitive way of addressing ways of people being offended and dealing with
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hate speech. it is a different approach on these issues. with countries like pakistan, we will say we hope you will change those laws, but at a minimum deal with the question now that ray suarez put on the table here. the false accusations violate your own law. if you take a tough stand on those and punish the people, make false accusations and let it be known, and you can put an end to that here. there has been some improvement on the question in the last year or two of enforcement of laws on this. we have encouraged them under the ruling of their supreme court that says government has to do more to protect religious minorities, and set up police forces to protect minorities and how to diffuse the issues that are so much in life at pakistan
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and the tragedy that occurred with christians celebrating easter that killed both christians and muslims in such a large number. hopefully we will see continued improvement a freedom under fire. religious liberty, american foreign policy and a hierarchy of values. stay with us. it's "inside story"..
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welcome back to inside story. i'm ray suarez. a freedom under fire. threats to religious liberty around the world. in the 16 or 17 years that your
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job has existed, you're the first jew to hold the job. does that change what you do and how you do it? >> it really doesn't. i found that everywhere i go to muslim countries, buddhist countries, they're interested in the fact that i'm an rabbi and i get interesting questions about it and we get into theological discussions and segue into the business. it has been a great honor it has never been a problem anywhere? >> no you mentioned that there are several ambassadors at large dealing with many of the problems that exist around the world, threats to women's rights and other human rights. is there a sort of order of precedence in a crisis-ridden country, are the things that you're worried about and the things that you're monitoring and working with governments on sort of following in behind
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threats to life and limb on a more general basis. if all women are being oppressed, 50% of the population, does the women's rights person get ahead of you in line in a set of 10% or 15% of a religious minorities. with the the u.s. have problems with a country, are you one of the last guys that gets your arms around it as opposed to one of the first? >> it depends on the facts in any given country. there are always going to be issues, health issues, women health, drug issues, trafficking issues, that may loom large at any given moment and need to be addressed, by the u.s. will put all the issues into play into our interactions with countries across the globe. our human rights division which is headed by a man who has done a great job, made the argument
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that it's when you integrate all the pieces of this and make progress on all these fronts that you really are helping a country to transform itself. so we try to push on whatever is the most urgent, but on the structural problems as well and do them both at the same time the world has changed so much in the past 30 years. freedom of conscience, the idea that you could believe what you want, believe where your own intellect guided you, was not universally valued or widely valued not that long ago. does the notion that the people have the right to make up their own mind and heart about religion take some time to take root? >> it does, and it particularly does with authoritarian countries who are concerned and frightened by people organising their lives around institutions or ideas that they cannot
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control. therefore, there's often a clash between the way that religious groups organise themselves in the government of that country. we've tried to convince the country that there will be more-- they will be more stable, more well to do in terms of the social capital of the country, indicated enormous contribution to social welfare projects at religious institutions across the globe, every group to help automatic and to educate people, et cetera. countries are better off when they give religious communities freedom to do their work. so we are making those arguments all the time. i think we continue to see improvement in some areas and regression in area areas in countries across the globe. you should have to work on it. it is a power of our annual report because we cover every
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country, and in reporting on the persecution and diskram nation that exists there, we give hope to those groups-- discrimination. the fact that there are staff people in our embassies all across the globe who work on preparing that report and stay in touch with the religious communities, everywhere i fly across the globe, and in the last year i've been to 20-odd countries where i'm engaged personally in this work, some more than ones, everywhere i go there are dedicated foreign service officers who know the religious community, who know the government officials that deal with them, who stand up for the rights of groups who are being discriminated against or persecuted. every day across the globe we're making a real difference and it's not just the united states. there's a broad coalition of
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countries of every faith group, islamic, hindu, buddhist, christian majority countries that are working together on behalf of those values. step-by-step, i believe we are making things better but there are many countries where there remain enormous challenges will you leave this job feeling that on balance the world is in better shape on this score? >> i truly believe that the world is in better shape on some of these issues. we face a threat of religious extremists, who will use force and kill people who disagree with their religious beliefs. that began a few years ago. i came in the middle of a growing impact of that. we're working to find news ways to confront that. that is an enormous challenge that affects many countries, but we're not dealing with governments. that's an enormous challenge. if you look on the global scene, i believe that there are more
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people able to live their lives with increased degree of freedom and live in accordance with their religious conscience than was true before i came on thanks for being here >> honored to be with you the ambassador at large for religious freedom. that's the inside story. join me tomorrow for one final edition, the look at the program over the last two years as al jazeera prepares to sign off. i'm ray suarez. goodnight. >> we can save species. >> macaw are at risk of dissappearing in the wild. >> we are on the tipping point of an ecological disaster. >> radiocarbon dating method can tell us if trade of ivory is legal.
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moment was when i stood up. these were emotions i had been dreaming about for so long. thank you. >> techknow, proud to tell your stories on al jazeera america. >> this is aljazeera america, live from new york city, i'm tony harris. a question of qualifications, bernie sanders and hillary clinton argue over who is ready to be president. the man in the hat. belgium prosecutors release new video of one of the suspected attacks. and the indicted mayor of a texas town has a plan, and inside of the pentagon, our northbound security correspondent takes us inside of the military

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