Sister Sharon Eubank called on governments to play a role in preventing religious discrimination during the Second Global Summit on Religion, Peace and Security in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, April 29.
Sister Eubank, Latter-day Saint Charities director and first counselor in the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, represented Latter-day Saint Charities in the summit.
“We ourselves were victims of religious persecution. We became refugees, and so it’s very personal to us,” Sister Eubank said. “Part of this mission is to help people who are beleaguered, and it’s very important for me to sit at this table with these distinguished colleagues.”
The summit’s goal, according to the Kaiciid Dialogue Centre, is to “promote the non-discrimination and protection of human rights of religious minorities, refugees and migrants with a particular focus on ultra-nationalist contexts.”
The International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty livestreamed the global summit on Facebook. Sister Eubank’s remarks begin at about 1:47:50.
Sister Eubank included in her remarks three guiding principles for governments to “facilitate rather than frustrate the energy for good that exists within pluralistic communities.”
The first principle, she said, is that governments should realize their objectives can be achieved more effectively if religious minorities are part of the solution.
“The good that religion can do — especially when it comes to integrating or achieving the sustainable development goals — is amplified if religious groups work in partnership with each other and with governments and with non-governmental actors,” Sister Eubank said.
The second principle Sister Eubanks spoke about was that governments “should recognize that using religious groups instrumentally as a means for achieving their governmental ends has the effect of cannibalizing security and removing the very stabilizing elements that they seek.”
Sister Eubank’s third guiding principle was that governments should recognize that better religion is the antidote to the ill done in religion’s name.
“The best answer to Islamic extremism will be authentic Islam, just as the solution to Christian extremism will be authentic Christianity,” Sister Eubank said. “It will be the best of faith that defeats distorting versions of religious belief.”
Before Sister Eubank gave her suggestions for governments to prevent religious discrimination, she shared examples of people and countries that have been welcoming to religious minorities.
“Minorities and refugees and migrants have in common one thing, and it is that their dignity is at risk, and their otherness and their acuteness makes their needs particularly vulnerable,” Sister Eubank said. “It is precisely in reaching out to these others that you see dignity come alive and are reminded about what democracy should mean and what development can mean.”
She shared one story about Jesuit Refugee Services in Uganda, where a group of non-Christian refugees participated in a training last month. Sister Eubank spoke specifically about one man she met, a single Muslim father with two little girls.
“He told me, ‘I love this place. It’s the one place I can walk into and I won’t be discriminated against because I’m a Muslim,'” Sister Eubank said. “That one place was Jesuit Refugee Services. That’s a contribution to democracy and peace and dignity for vulnerable families.”
She also told the story about a new imam who was installed in a mosque that served a community with Christian refugees. When the imam started teaching anti-Christian sentiments, Sister Eubank said the older, respected residents of the town intervened. The imam was corrected and eventually replaced.
“That community would not tolerate that kind of speech about their diverse neighbors,” Sister Eubank said. “This example highlights that when speech or incitement shows bias and threatens security, if the majority will step forward to protect the rights of the minority neighbor, it results in putting down the real security issue, which is scapegoating.”