WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked leaders of the countries across the globe, including India, China and Pakistan, to stand up for the rights of everyone, the religious minorities in particular.
"You need to be standing up for the rights of everyone in the community, every confession... In Egypt or Pakistan or Indonesia or China or India or anywhere, leaders need to be out front saying that, and then acting on it," Clinton said.
"When I think about how scared so many minorities religious minorities are all over the world, and governments are not I mean, I believe that governments have a bigger role to play and more leverage than they exercise," she said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based prestigious think-tank.
"I think too many governments particularly in these fast-transitioning societies where there's so much going on at the same time too many governments believe that religious freedom is something you get to after you deal with everything else; itís just not a priority for them," she said.
"We want to raise it up on the visibility list of what they need to be dealing with, and to try to send a clear message: You need to stand up for the rights of all your people. You are now a leader of a diverse society. If you're in Iraq, you need to be protecting every community, not just one or maybe two at the most," she said in her speech after the release of the annual State Department report on International Religious Freedom for the year 2011.
Clinton said as several countries with diverse faith communities are now in the process of navigating transitions toward democracy, they are wrestling with questions of whether and how to protect religious freedom for their citizens.
"This goes from Tunisia to Burma and many places in between. But take, for example, Egypt, which I visited two weeks ago. I had a very emotional, very personal conversation with Christians who are deeply anxious about what the future holds for them and their country.
"What Egypt and other countries decide will have a major impact on the lives of their people and will go a long way toward determining whether these countries are able to achieve true democracy," she said.