Standing up for global religious freedom is a cause that every American can participate in and the fear of a problem being “too big to solve” is “the biggest danger to freedom” generally, Kristina Arriaga, a vice chair on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told Breitbart News.
Arriaga noted that Americans can do much to raise their voices for those persecuted nationwide for their faith through “your church or your synagogue or your temple or your mosque, or perhaps through local government.”
“Everyone thinks people in Washington do everything – no, it’s always local elected officials that have the power to change things, not only locally but nationally,” Arriaga suggested.
Arriaga spoke to Breitbart News on the sidelines of “The Impact of War on Religious Freedom,” an event in Washington, DC, hosted by the Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy, where Arriaga also served as a panelist detailing the relationship between the corrosion of state institutions during war and the collapse of religious freedom. The event occurred on the tail end of a week in which the U.S. State Department hosted its first-ever ministerial on religious freedom, inviting dozens of foreign ministers from all around the world to discuss how to protect their religious minorities and foster safer, more pluralistic societies.
“No problem is too big that people cannot help and participate,” Arriaga told Breitbart News. “In fact, the biggest danger to freedom is complacency, is taking things for granted or thinking that something is too big to resolve. Every single American has the duty to make sure that no one is silent, particularly those with whom they may disagree, and that is because when one person doesn’t have religious freedom … none of us do.”
Arriaga noted that the collapse of religious freedom in a country significantly damages almost all aspects of quality of life in that state. “It affects the economy, it affects how we relate to each other … the number one reason a state can become unstable is the way women are treated, which is deeply tied to religious freedom,” she explained.
Relatedly, nations have much to gain from expanding religious freedom.
“The countries that have strong, robust religious freedom protections generally have much better rights for women, and countries that have a high rate of educated religious leaders that are engaging in interfaith civil dialogue tend to benefit women greatly,” she noted, in relation to studies showing that equal treatment of women is the one factor that most correlates to state stability.
The United States also plays a key role in enticing countries to better respect human rights generally, Arriaga argued, given the strength of the dollar.
“We live in a global time where there is internet, where there are no longer hard barriers for us to communicate with each other and every single country has an interest to participate in global trade,” Arriaga told Breitbart News. “The currency used in most transactions in the world is the dollar. I am certain that all of these countries want to make sure that they have a situation where they can engage in trade w the United States and be able to exchange in the currency that is most stable.”
“As a result, I think the United States is uniquely positioned to also say ‘we will not be doing business with countries that violate human rights,'” she concluded. “So, of course, it is in the self-interest of every country to improve its own human rights station in order to gain access to the ability to trade with the United States and any other country.”