Thank you, General Secretary Kruja. Dear members of the Interfaith Council and distinguished guests. I am honored to be here with you today as the Albanian Interfaith Council recognizes our shared “Brotherhood in Humanism.” I am especially honored to be here as we launch the 100th year of U.S.-Albania relations this year. I will take any opportunity I can to emphasize our shared values of tolerance and inclusion.
It is no exaggeration to say that Albania is seen as a world leader when it comes to religious freedom and interfaith harmony. This year, we have seen Albania on the global stage, as a member of the United Nations Security Council, speaking about human rights and human security around the world. Your voice is especially powerful due to Albania’s history and Albania’s values. From Albania’s tradition of Besa and its protection of Jewish refugees during World War II, to taking a stand at the United Nations for persecuted Muslim Uighurs, Albania has defended religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities. In this tradition, Albania is hosting over 2,200 Afghans who fled the Taliban last summer. The Albanian people have always embraced the opportunity to help fellow humans in need.
The tradition of tolerance, acceptance, and cooperation continues to this day as evidenced by the Interfaith Council representing Albania’s five main faith groups, which is a productive model to be emulated. I commend the Council for its excellent work to promote interfaith dialogue and harmony domestically and internationally.
I’ve lived in several countries during my career as a diplomat, from the Far East to the Middle East. When it comes to interreligious harmony, Albania is very special. Just look around you, in this room. Or walking on the street, passing mosques, cathedrals, churches, and tekkes. I’ve heard the stories in conversations with my Albanian staff. An Orthodox father and Muslim mother. A Bektashi grandfather and Catholic grandmother. Evangelical siblings. But one family. One Albanian family.
Without a doubt, Albania is a shining example for other countries and multi-ethnic societies. But religious harmony is never a given and should not be taken for granted. Just look at other countries around the world where religious friction stresses civil society or, worse, freedom of worship is repressed and religious strictures are imposed by the government. To achieve what Albania has requires an unwavering commitment and respect of our most basic rights – the right to think freely, to follow our beliefs, and to express those beliefs in private and in public.
May Albania continue to serve as an example of respect, understanding, and Brotherhood in Humanism. Thank you.