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Religious Freedom Envoy Condemns Religious Intolerance

BY PETER KENNY                                                                                         
©2011 Religion News Service

The Obama administration's new envoy for international religious freedom told a U.N. commission on June 14 that government, political, religious, and business leaders must stand ready to condemn hateful ideology.
Borrowing from recent headlines, Ambassador-at-Large Suzan Johnson Cook cited a Florida pastor who had been so "publicly reviled and rebuked" for threatening to burn a Quran that he has virtually no followers left.
Cook’s appearance at the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, was the first for the New York pastor who was recently sworn in after a long nomination battle during which critics questioned her credentials.
"Leaders who remain silent are contributing to the problem and should be held politically accountable," Cook said at a forum on "Combating Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief."
While noting the value of legal safeguards such as the U.N.'s Universal Declaration on Human Rights, she said creating a climate to avert violence and discrimination is better than trying to prosecute it
"after the fact."
She also noted near universal condemnation of Terry Jones, "an extremist pastor in Florida" who threatened to burn a Quran on the 9/11 anniversary, which set off deadly protests in Afghanistan and the wider Islamic world. "His behavior is publicly reviled and rebuked by virtually the entire society," Cook said. "The result has been that you can count on your fingers the number of supporters Pastor Terry Jones has in our country."

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