Celebrating Religious Freedom at the Secretary of State's Iftar

Posted by Sophie Gould
July 25, 2013
Secretary Kerry Hosts an Iftar

When I told a friend that I would be volunteering at the Secretary of State’s annual Iftar this summer, she asked me whether “iftar” was yet another State Department acronym. I laughed, explaining that the Iftar is the evening meal with which Muslims break their fast during the month of Ramadan. For a wide-eyed intern like me, I told her, the Secretary’s Iftar would be a highlight of the summer. As it turns out, I was right!

When the day of the Iftar arrived, I had the chance to sit down with a few of the guests for an informal afternoon meeting. It was amazing to meet these accomplished, inspiring people in person and hear about the work they are doing in their communities. The guests lauded the U.S. government for its efforts to foster appreciation for diversity abroad through exchange programs and other forms of public diplomacy, and expressed their enthusiasm about receiving invitations to dine with the Secretary. Before I knew it, sundown approached and the guests were beginning to fill the top floor of the Department.  It was time for the volunteers to man our stations and help escort visitors and members of the press between the various Diplomatic Reception rooms. Many guests ventured out onto the porch to watch the sun set over the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

 

Once many of the Muslim guests had prayed and broken the fast with dried fruits and nuts, the visitors entered the Benjamin Franklin room and settled at their tables, turning their attention to the podium. First, Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith addressed the crowd, thanking the guests for the important work they have done to strengthen bonds between religious communities around the world.

At last, Secretary Kerry approached the microphone. Recalling John Winthrop, a distant relation of his who sought refuge in America in light of the persecution of Puritans in 17th century England, the Secretary spoke about the importance of religious freedom in American history.

“We didn’t always get it right,” he said, referencing several instances of religious persecution perpetrated by Americans. “Throughout our history, we have struggled with the divisiveness of religious differences.”

 

Today, the Secretary said, the promotion of tolerance and religious freedom around the world is a top priority for the U.S. government and there has never been a more important time to actively cultivate compassion between people of different faiths.

Finishing his remarks to enthusiastic applause, Secretary Kerry joined his table, and dinner began. All too soon, however, the plates were cleared, the guests departed, and the volunteers were free to go. As I left the building, my legs felt tired, but my mind was spinning. Not only had I been impressed with the individual accomplishments of the guests and the grandeur of the Iftar itself, but I had also been struck by the guiding principle that these people of different faiths seemed to have in common: the desire for peace.

It was a night I won’t forget.

Related Content: Watch Secretary Kerry's remarks at the Iftar here, or read the transcript.

Comments

Comments

Eric J.
|
New Mexico, USA
July 25, 2013
"life liberty,and the persuit of happiness" The three pillars of democracy are also the three main theaters of engagement in the war on "stupid". As defined, that one word covers a broad cross-section of anti-social behavior, and thus I believe was coined the phrase "smart power" in a soundbite worthy generic policy directive. Wish the DoD would simply invent a "smart bomb" that would wise people up. Religious intolerance based upon an interpretation of faith, forced upon a people in conformity, is just another form of slavery of the body and mind. America wasn't born free, it just grew up that way, via the university of hard knocks.; In a sense being a total rejection of "stupid" in the process ongoing. I know I speak in broad terms here, but I believe it is important to remind ourselves of this, our national purpose, which may at times conflict with acts of legistlation and/or "national interest" of government. Unlike some conflicts, this war is an endless struggle to evolve the collective conciousness of humanity, regardless of mindset. In this broad sense Sec. Kerry is right, "There is no military solution..." Rather "stupid" reigns supreme in conflict situations...especially when a genocidal dictator has been allowed to remain in power by the international community as in the case of Bashar Al-Assad and no stop has been put to the slaughter. When the Secretary was told (paraphrasing from a news report), by a Syrian refugee that the US "could change the equasion in 15 minutes" (militarily, that is), I believe that to be a true and correct statement of fact, not just an opinion offered as assesment of the situation. In order for folks @ State to really grasp why I say this emphaticly and have for several years now , one would have to understand why the United States along with allies declared "unconditional surrender" to be terms by which they fought the war on "stupid" in their day.
Eric J.
|
New Mexico, USA
July 25, 2013

"life liberty,and the persuit of happiness" The three pillars of democracy are also the three main theaters of engagement in the war on "stupid".

As defined, that one word covers a broad cross-section of anti-social behavior, and thus I believe was coined the phrase "smart power" in a soundbite worthy generic policy directive.

Wish the DoD would simply invent a "smart bomb" that would wise people up. Religious intolerance based upon an interpretation of faith, forced upon a people in conformity, is just another form of slavery of the body and mind.

America wasn't born free, it just grew up that way, via the university of hard knocks.; In a sense being a total rejection of "stupid" in the process ongoing.

I know I speak in broad terms here, but I believe it is important to remind ourselves of this, our national purpose, which may at times conflict with acts of legistlation and/or "national interest" of government.

Unlike some conflicts, this war is an endless struggle to evolve the collective conciousness of humanity, regardless of mindset.

In this broad sense Sec. Kerry is right, "There is no military solution..."

Rather "stupid" reigns supreme in conflict situations...especially when a genocidal dictator has been allowed to remain in power by the international community as in the case of Bashar Al-Assad and no stop has been put to the slaughter.

When the Secretary was told (paraphrasing from a news report), by a Syrian refugee that the US "could change the equasion in 15 minutes" (militarily, that is), I believe that to be a true and correct statement of fact, not just an opinion offered as assesment of the situation.

In order for folks @ State to really grasp why I say this emphaticly and have for several years now , one would have to understand why the United States along with allies declared "unconditional surrender" to be terms by which they fought the Second World War on "stupid" in their day.

.

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