Religious freedom is a wonderful privilege for people in the United States, but not common in other parts of the world.
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, the President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, is giving an address at the BYU-Idaho Forum later today. Her topic deals with the many threats to religious freedom there are across the globe and why it matters here in the USA.
In an interview with Dr. Swett, she said she has been involved with human rights for most of her life and her family was a big part of it.
"I am the daughter of two Holocaust survivors," said Dr. Swett. "My family's background is from Europe and Hungary. My Jewish heritage is a very important part of who I am and knowing what happened to many members of my family and what my two parents endured, because of their faith, because of their religion, because of their identity, made me sensitive from a very young age to the importance of upholding fundamental human rights of resisting oppression. It also made me very aware of the importance of defending the religious rights of people in every corner of the world."
Along with being the President of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, she teaches Human Rights and American Foreign Policy at Tufts University and serves as the Co-Chair of the Board of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. She is also the former Chair and Vice-Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
With all these opportunities, Dr. Swett has learned a lot about the different issues in religious freedom around the world.
"I've really had the opportunity to advocate on behalf and speak in defense of persecuted religious communities all around the world and to really get a deeper understanding of the issues and why it's so important for our country to stand up in defense of religious freedom," said Dr. Swett.
Dr. Swett said there are many different challenges in religious freedom around the world where people are not able to worship how they please and are discriminated if they do not conform to other beliefs or orders.
A common question Dr. Swett hears is, "How does this impact or affect me?" She said it's easy to feel this way but that if we want our own religious freedom, everyone should have religious freedom.
"The rights of one, really are the rights of all. We need to defend the conscience rights and the religious freedom rights of all people because that's the way in which our own rights are protected and defended," said Dr. Swett. "You really don't understand the importance of the principle of religious freedom unless you understand the importance of defending it for everyone, not just for yourself."
Click below to hear Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett's full forum address.