U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Remarks at the USAID Iftar Dinner

For Immediate Release

Friday, June 1, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

 
U.S. Agency for International Development
Ronald Reagan Building
June 1, 2018

As Prepared

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Welcome everyone, and let me wish you all a Ramadan Kareem. Thank you all for joining us.

As we begin, I want to offer a special thanks to Samah for all the hard work it must have taken to organize this evening.

Events like this speak to who we are as an Agency and as Americans. For more than two centuries, as a vast melting pot, we have shared our cultures, our traditions.... and we have most definitely enjoyed sharing our food!

Ramadan is a time when the Muslim world stops to focus on Islamic teachings regarding not just prayer, but also compassion, community, and generosity toward the poor.

It is a fitting occasion for us at USAID to do the same.

For those of us who are not Muslim, an Iftar is an opportunity to demonstrate what has been called the truest measure of commitment to religious liberty: namely, the importance we place on protecting it for those of other faiths.

After all, freedom of worship is what brought Pilgrims to these shores in the first place.

Since her founding, America has been steeped in the Abrahamic traditions. The tenets of three great faiths provide the ethical fabric for our society.

Most particularly, the Golden Rule -- "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" -- that provides a moral foundation underlying both our Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

Those profound, momentous documents are perhaps America's greatest gift to history, and they guide our work at USAID to this very day.

The First Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty codified, in an unprecedented way, a universal and fundamental element of citizen-responsive governance.

This is why USAID partners with civil society groups and religious leaders, in addition to the private sector. As I've said before in other contexts, no democracy is truly representative if it doesn't listen to all of its voices. The fragility of tolerance and freedom of worship was made painfully clear to me recently during my visit in Burma and Bangladesh.

As the world knows, there has been an attempted ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population. I have now seen for myself some of what that looks like.

But there's something else I'll always remember.

In the midst of all that suffering and despair, I met with families in three separate villages and refugee camps.

In each case, I was moved by their devotion to community, and the sacrifices they've made for one another as they celebrated Ramadan under the most difficult of conditions.

In Northern Rakhine, Muslim villages are constantly monitored by armed guards and have virtually no access to mosques or religious services of any kind.

Their patience and resilience in continuing to practice their faith as much as humanly possible is nothing short of inspirational, in a very real and tangible way.

Beyond its enormous toll of human suffering, this crisis will prevent Burma from reaching the promise of its 2015 elections, as well as the future its people - of every background, creed and ethnicity - so richly deserve.

But enough speechmaking, for one night.

Let me just say that, here in America, we pause before Iftar to cherish our tradition of religious pluralism, and the way that it makes us stronger as a society. And my travels made that abundantly clear.

We are all fortunate that Imam Talib Shareef is joining us to offer his remarks and then leading us in breaking the fast.

Thank again for coming everyone; have a blessed meal, and Salaam - peace be upon you all.

Last updated: June 01, 2018

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