Representing Sri Lanka at the Conference to Advance Religious Freedom, Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Prasad Kariyawasam remarked that Sri Lanka remains committed to advancing and upholding the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; including freedom to change ones religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest ones religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. Stating that Sri Lankans believe in the ability of religions to contribute to building peace and stability around the world, he acknowledged challenges to inter-religious understanding and harmony in Sri Lanka, and outlined steps being taken to overcome challenges and advance religious freedom. He also stressed that Sri Lanka will join the international community to foster what the world needs most today to progress – peace, compassion, mindfulness, and justice, and recognition of our common humanity.
These remarks were a part of the Secretary’s opening statement to the first Conference to Advance Religious Freedom hosted by the US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo from 24 to 26 July in Washington D.C.
Government representatives of over 80 countries, as well as religious leaders, civil society representatives, representatives of non-governmental and international organisations participated in this Conference to discuss challenges facing religious freedom globally and to develop responses and solutions to address religious persecution and discrimination.
Inaugurating the Conference, US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo remarked that the United States advances religious freedom in its foreign policy as it is a universal right of all mankind. The keynote address at the event was delivered by Vice President of the United States Michael Pence, who observed that religious freedom is in the interest of peace and security of the world, as the denial of religious liberty imperils other fundamental freedoms and democratic institutions.
Sri Lanka was among a number of countries that endorsed thematic statements issued at the Conference focusing on blasphemy/apostasy laws, religious freedom repression by non-state actors, including terrorist groups, and on counterterrorism as a false pretext for religious freedom repression.