Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Obama Speaks To Laotians On Human Rights and Religious Liberty

Yesterday, as part of his trip to Laos, President Obama delivered an address (full text) to the people of the country. Speaking at the Lao National Cultural Hall in Vientiane, his remarks included references both to Laos' religious and cultural heritage and to America's views on human rights:
... [I]n countless stupas and in your daily lives, we see the strength that draws -- so many of you from your Buddhist faith -- a faith that tells you that you have a moral duty to each other, to live with kindness and honesty, and that we can help end suffering if we embrace the right mindset and the right actions.  And in literature like the epic of Sinxay, we see the values that define the people of Laos, which is modesty and compassion, and resilience and hope....
I believe that nations are stronger and more successful when they uphold human rights.  We speak out for these rights not because we think our own country is perfect -- no nation is -- not because we think every country should do as we do, because each nation has to follow its own path.  But we will speak up on behalf of human rights because we believe they are the birthright of every human being.  And we know that democracy can flourish in Asia because we’ve seen it thrive from Japan and South Korea to Taiwan. 
Across this region, we see citizens reaching to shape their own futures.  And freedom of speech and assembly, and the right to organize peacefully in civil society without harassment or fear of arrest or disappearing we think makes a country stronger.  A free press that can expose abuse and injustice makes a country stronger.  And access to information and an open Internet where people can learn and share ideas makes a country stronger.  An independent judiciary that upholds the rule of law, and free and fair elections so that citizens can choose their own leaders -- these are all the rights that we seek for all people.
We believe that societies are more stable and just when they recognize the inherent dignity of every human being -- the dignity of being able to live and pray as you choose, so that Muslims know they are a part of Myanmar’s future, and Christians and Buddhists have the right to worship freely in China.  The dignity of being treated equally under the law, so that no matter where you come from or who you love or what you look like you are respected.  And the dignity of a healthy life -- because no child should ever die from hunger or a mosquito bite, or the poison of dirty water.  This is the justice that we seek in the world.