Religious Freedom a Vital Security Benefit Says Former US Ambassador-at-Large

June 11, 2002. Manila, Philippines ... [IRLA News] Religious freedom is the missing dimension of security, according to Dr. Robert Seiple, the first US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

Speaking at the International Religious Liberty Association's (IRLA) world congress in Manila on June 11, Seiple highlighted the importance of freedom of religion as a great security benefit, saying that without such respect for freedom of conscience there would always be the threat of conflict and violence.

"Religious freedom, tolerance, respect for human rights and the dignity of all people are just as much a security force as a tank, a rifle, or a soldier," he said, emphasizing that support for religious freedom aided fundamental security concerns.

Speaking of the terrorist attacks on the US, Seiple pointed to the perverted aspects of religion involved. "Osama bin Laden does not understand his faith at its deepest and richest best, and just as clearly, he has absolutely no respect for the faith of others. On September 11th, we saw the ultimate perversion of religion. A misunderstood faith, and inappropriately applied faith, a truncated or redacted faith--in the hands of a zealot--is very scary indeed. Our global security is put at risk."

Such aspects made emphasizing the importance of religious liberty, Seiple added. "Now we know for sure that there are people who are willing to die for their faith and, unfortunately, there are people who are willing to kill for their religion. We neglect this issue of religious freedom in the context of national and global security at our considerable peril."

"We would be enormously wise to use a portion of our time here this week to lay a foundation, to begin a structure, to develop a strategy that would wrap the arms of international religious freedom around the security concerns of our world," Seiple concluded. 'Driving a wedge between religious freedom and security is absurdly counter-productive. We are capable of so much more!"

Seiple headed the aid and development agency World Vision for over ten years before his assignment as US Ambassador-at-Large. Currently he is the president of the Institute for Global Engagement.

The 5th IRLA world congress brings together international leaders, diplomats, and religious freedom experts to support, defend and promote all issues relative to religious freedom, particularly examining ways to combat intolerance and discrimination. A non-denominational organization, the IRLA has advocated religious freedom for 109 years and works in cooperation with governments, the U.N. Commission for Human Rights, and other non-governmental organizations in organizing world conferences and symposiums on matters related to freedom of conscience, religion and belief. [Jonathan Gallagher]