Guest / Limited Access /

"Who made you the international morality cop?" The Chinese official from Beijing's Religious Affairs Bureau did not care that I was the first-ever United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. Nor did he care that the International Religious Freedom Act that created my office represented unprecedented bipartisanship and the overwhelming support of the American people. No, this Chinese official only saw another "ugly American" trying to preach American values to the rest of the world.

Seeing myself that way was but one of the lessons I learned in my 25-month stint as an ambassador at large. The second occurred over many, many meetings. During my years as ambassador at large, the number two man at the State Department, Strobe Talbott, would gather the assistant Secretaries of State together at 9:15 every morning to discuss global events.

In all of those "Talbott meetings," I was never once asked a question about religious freedom. Certainly, religious freedom indirectly came up in the context of disasters such as Afghanistan or Sudan, but the issue was never brought up in its own right—and this during an administration that cared deeply for human rights. But religious freedom was never going to wag the dog.

A third lesson arose as I got deeper into the job: Though I learned about many repressed people who had died for their faith, I unfortunately saw too many others who were more than willing to kill for their religion. There seemed to be little understanding that the right to religious belief brings with it the responsibility to demonstrate tolerance and respect for the faith of others.

These three lessons shaped not only how I tried to implement the International Religious Freedom Act; they also ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Recommended'Not Forgotten': The Top 50 Countries Where It's Most Difficult To Be A Christian
'Not Forgotten': The Top 50 Countries Where It's Most Difficult To Be A Christian
Open Doors says 2014 saw the worst persecution of Christians in the 'modern era'—but not because of violence.
TrendingThe 10 Most Influential Churches of the Last Century
The 10 Most Influential Churches of the Last Century
There is much to learn from some key trends in the last 100 years of church history.
Editor's PickI’m a Christian. But I’ve Forgotten How to Belong to the Church.
I’m a Christian. But I’ve Forgotten How to Belong to the Church.
A millennial diagnoses her generation’s complicated relationship to the body of Christ.
Comments
Christianity Today
Religious Liberty: How Are We Doing?
hide thisOctober 22 October 22

In the Magazine

October 22, 2001

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.