U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denounced China and other authoritarian regimes at the Vatican, saying their refusal to accept a higher power are the roots of religious repression.
At a conference on religious freedom, Pompeo singled out China’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims, saying authoritarian regimes and autocrats see religion as a threat to their authority.
“When the state rules absolutely, moral norms are crushed completely,” Pomeo said in his speech to the symposium on Oct. 2.
“That’s why the Islamic Republic of Iran has jailed, tortured, and killed thousands of its own citizens for four decades. It’s why China has put more than a million Uyghur Muslims … in internment camps. It’s why it throws Christian pastors in jail.”
China has faced international criticism for sending some one million Muslims mainly from the Uyghur ethnic minority to internment camps in remote Xinjiang region since 2017. China has defended its actions, calling them vocational re-education centres aimed at ending Islamic extremism.
Pompeo also took aim at Myanmar’s deadly crackdown on Rohingya Muslims that has forced entire communities to flee for their lives over the border into Bangladesh.
“Freedom of religion can also be threatened when an intolerant majority rules. That’s how the Burmese security forces have been able to drive hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims out of their homes, in the most violent and brutal ways.”
“We must recognize the roots of religious repression. Authoritarian regimes and autocrats will never accept a power higher than their own,” he said.
International global alliance
Pompeo spoke of the international global alliance on religious freedom launched by the United States, urging countries to join the grouping to help defend the right of all people to worship freely.
“Today each of us must gird ourselves for another battle in defense of human dignity and religious freedom,” he said at the conference co-hosted by the Vatican and the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
“The stakes today are arguably higher than they were even during the Cold War, because the threats to it are more diverse and more numerous.”
“More than 80 percent of mankind lives in places where religious freedom is threatened or entirely denied. Approximately 71 million people around the world are displaced as refugees. Roughly 25 million people are caught in human trafficking situations.”
He said nations were paying attention to the “sweeping violations of human rights and human dignity” occurring in China’s Xinjiang region, saying they were “standing up and speaking honestly about it”.
“This growing solidarity gives us hope of strength in numbers. Countries of the world can rally together to promote religious freedom and human dignity.”
At the symposium, Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican minister of foreign affairs, said the event reflected a shared commitment to promoting human dignity, reported CNS.
Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher quoted Pope Francis who said, the aim of U.S.-Vatican collaboration “is to build a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive and to safeguard the dignity and the inalienable rights of every human person.”
The archbishop said, “Indeed, I am of the opinion that the principal emphasis with regard to religious freedom should not be political or ideological:
“The main concern should be to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms effectively, and to promote peaceful coexistence and inclusive societies, in which people can express their beliefs freely without fear of being censored by the common discourse and where minorities are fully respected.”
Pope Francis met with Pompeo on the following day for a range of talks, including discussions on protecting Christian communities in the Middle East and protecting religious freedom.