Foreign Policy and Freedom of Faith

Religion and Politics

President Obama on 26 February 2014 spoke about religious freedoms within country’s foreign policies (goo.gl/Uf2R5H). In his speech he rebuked multiple countries of not having foreign policies allowing religious freedoms of their visitors and citizens. Along with this rebuke it was also stated that one of America’s goals in foreign policy was to promote freedom of faith.

This promotion of freedom of faith by the United States would not only be for the United States, but is a goal for freedom of faith worldwide in all countries. Obama claims to have been “elevating our engagement with faith leaders and making it a regular part of our diplomacy”. Obama pushes for freedom of faith not only in this speech, but also in other more personal talks or meetings with other government officials.

Most of the rebuke for various countries in Obama’s speech was directed at freedom for release of Christians and freedom of worship for all. Obama continued to state that “History shows that nations that uphold the rights of their people, including the freedom of religion, are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful. Nations that do not uphold these rights sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism.

So freedom of religion matters to our national security”. Freedom of Faith, as Obama views, is essential for a healthy country, society, and citizens. Without this freedom the citizens of various countries will not be satisfied with the governments and will in the long run cause weaknesses within the government and the society as a whole. In essence happy citizens, happy society, happy government.

After his speech Obama proceeded to pray for two Americans currently being held in countries, thus enforcing his point of the United States having freedom of faith. It was both a tender thought, and yet bold statement acknowledging these citizens being held due to their faith. His openness about faith and prayer is inspiring. Not many politicians would speak on freedom of faith, let alone pray for people in front of public media.

The thought of freedom of faith is an interesting concept, especially in foreign policy. I believe that freedom of religion should be within every foreign policy, and Obama’s thoughts on the matter make a lot of sense. The idea of a country having freedom of faith to help with peace and success within a country is a very interesting perspective. Freedom of faith in foreign policy I believe will ultimately help citizens feel like they have more of a say, and overall have a happier perspective of their government, and country as a whole.

Having freedom often allows people to be more successful in general, and people will feel more at ease. From a psychological standpoint, telling people not to do something never bodes well. In fact, studies have shown people will usually do the opposite of a straight command, thus encouraging Obama’s viewpoint of freedom of faith encouraging peace, and decreasing hostility or violence within a society.

Generally speaking people with freedoms and boundaries within a society are better than a government restricting its citizens of freedoms. I believe that people should have the freedom of faith and to worship and celebrate religion without restriction from the government (unless it is hurtful in some way).

Therefore I would tend to agree with Obama’s statements about freedom of faith being relevant to all countries and people, and that restricting this form of freedom can actually be detrimental (as mentioned above regarding psychology). As a Psychology student I have learned that freedom in people’s lives, perceived freedoms, or even wording regarding areas of command or rules helps with people responding correctly. For example, people respond in kind when please is put on a sign. Such as “please do not write on the table” verses “do not write on the table”, people will do the opposite of what is asked when please is not present on the sign.

People, generally speaking, do not like being told what to do; because of this, governments are wise to allow freedoms for their citizens when it is appropriate. This is not to say there should be no laws but with freedoms that are not damaging to society, such as freedom of faith, should be allowed within every country.

I do have to commend Obama for going against the trend of countries. Politically it is a bold move for statements scolding countries of their current foreign policies is risky in many different areas. Though Obama did comment on the relationships between the United States and other countries, especially China, it is a risky political move to stand up against other governments of how they run their countries. Religion and freedoms regarding religion is not a topic usually discussed in such open and blunt terms.

In a youtube video of Obama’s speech, he states quite openly that he is a Christian and has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour (goo.gl/kLZZHz). This is very bold for Obama to state, and is abnormal overall for politicians to speak on their personal faith. Faith and religion is a topic that has become taboo to discuss. This is true within governments, and societies as a whole. Therefore I must commend Obama for breaking the mould of keeping quiet and actually saying something about religious freedoms, even if it might hurt his government.

In my opinion Obama’s speech makes a very bold statement for religion in the United States, and Obama’s government. Obama’s viewpoint on freedom of faith should be spread more worldwide and religion should be discussed more openly in societies everywhere.

So I challenge you to think about a few things: As long as there is no harm being done to people why shut down freedom of faith? If people believe religion is everything to a person, why not share it? Why be shut down from sharing the most important thing in life? Religion and faith is a topic in which every human will make a decision of in their life and is often one of the most passionate parts of life, if this is true why is it kept so quiet and why is it so taboo? No one shuts down talking about politics, relationships, knowledge/education, so why religion?

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