The US government has branded Bangladesh as an 'extraordinary free country' in terms of freedom of worship and peaceful coexistence of various faith-based communities.
David N Saperstein, the Ambassador-at-Large of the US Department of State made the remarks during his meeting with Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali at the state Guesthouse Padma on Thursday afternoon, UNB reports.
He also described his visit to Bangladesh as a 'gratifying experience' and appreciated the ability of Bangladeshi people to celebrate festivals irrespective of religious identity.
Among others, US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Bernicat was present during the meeting.
Ambassador Saperstein apprised the Foreign Minister about his visit to Dhaka and stated that he has found the religious tradition of Bangladesh quite remarkable.
He also commended the action taken by the Bangladesh government in the aftermath of a few recent incidents related to minority population and appreciated the steps towards protection of their rights.
The US Ambassador-at-Large assured his government's continued support and cooperation to Bangladesh in addressing religious intolerance and discrimination based on religious belief.
Welcoming the US Ambassador-at-Large to his maiden visit to Bangladesh, Mahmood Ali mentioned that the present government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has reinstated secularism in the country’s Constitution and has been taking necessary steps to ensure rights of people of all faiths.
Citing the Prime Minister’s quotation "To everyone his or her religion but festivals belong to everyone", he said people enjoy each and everyone's faith and festivals without let or hindrance during the rule of Awami League, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The Foreign Minister appreciated the understanding of the friendly countries like the USA and stated that the government is fully committed and working towards establishing a secular, democratic and inclusive nation as dreamt of by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Earlier in a Facebook chat, Saperstein said together with "responsible" political leaders who uphold the religious freedom provisions of international human rights covenants, they can make significant progress in curtailing religious conflict in any country.
"The primary challenges to religious freedom are manifested in the occasional violent acts against religious individuals, communities, and institutions that we have seen in recent years," he said in a Facebook chat on Thursday.
The Ambassador, however, said Bangladesh provides an expansive degree of religious freedom and this is in accordance with its Constitution, its values and its history.
Saperstein said the role of religious leaders in communities is to empower this view from a religious context; the role of political leaders is to ensure that the rule of law empowers this view from a political context.
"We must distinguish between the vast number of religious interpretations that, no matter what their theology, respect the religious rights of others -- as opposed to the minority so often violent who are willing to impose their views on those with whom they disagree."
With all of problems of tensions between religious communities in too many countries across the globe, the Ambassador-at-Large said it is equally true that they see today more inter-religious cooperation on behalf of peace, reconciliation, and religious freedom for all, than at any point in human history.
Responding to a question, he said right of religious freedom is a universal right and they have the obligation to ensure that any restrictions, as rare as they may be, on religious freedom in his own country are addressed in accordance with their constitutional guarantee of "free exercise of religion".
Asked about Rohingya issue, he said when he began as Ambassador-at-Large two years ago, one of the very first trips he took was to Myanmar to address a range of issues of restrictions on religious freedom and religious tensions between Myanmar's communities.
"I would also point out that during these two years, I have consistently raised the United States Government's concerns about the plight of the Rohingya Muslims and will continue to do so.".