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Rice Interview With John Revell, Editor, SBC Life

Interview With John Revell, Editor, SBC Life

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Greensboro, North Carolina
June 14, 2006

QUESTION: Well, I believe, Madame Secretary, that the Southern Baptists would love to hear about your faith in the Lord, how you came to faith, but how that affects and interacts with your responsibilities as Secretary of State.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, as I'm going to say today, I was literally born into the church. My father and grandfather were both Presbyterian ministers and I can honestly say I don't think I ever had a day when I doubted the existence of God. I grew up in such a God-loving and God-fearing family. And my parents were wonderful in passing on their faith to me and making it an active faith, though; a faith that I always felt that I could call on in good times and in bad. I've been through difficult times, of course, personally in the loss of both my parents. But also as we've gone through the trials of 9/11 and Afghanistan and Iraq, it's just always been my way to turn to the Lord and to turn personally to ask for guidance, to ask for a steadying hand, sometimes to ask to literally be carried when I didn't think I could carry it on my own.

And I do believe that if you are a person of faith you also have a certain optimism, because you know that you personally or the country is never going to fall very far because you -- I believe very much that we are justified, as Paul would say, in that faith. And so it's been a matter of great personal strength for me, but also I think it's been a great strength for our country as we've gone through trying times.

QUESTION: With all of those -- and you mentioned the trying times and I've referenced the 9/11 attack and our boys in Afghanistan and Iraq, what lessons of faith have you learned? Obviously you've depended on the Lord in those times, but what lessons of faith have you learned in the midst of those crises?

SECRETARY RICE: I think the thing that you learn in the midst of crisis is that there's nothing that you can't survive. That it is, even in the darkest hour, there is going to come a better hour. And that if you remain faithful and you don't allow your questioning intellect to get out too far from your faith that there's nothing that can't be survived. And in fact overcome, not just survived.

I've always thought that one of the real lessons of our faith, of the central tenet of our faith -- the Resurrection -- is that Good Friday is followed by Easter Sunday. And I think we experience that personally time and time again, and I think as a country we've experienced that because you come out of these difficult times, if you use them to strengthen yourself, you come out of these difficult times more committed, and out of your own tragedies, to try and do great things. And I think that's what America has done. America has come out of September 11th not self-absorbed but rather, through our President, with a renewed mission to spread liberty and freedom and to stand for the cause of those who've been denied liberty and freedom.

QUESTION: That's great. In your day-to-day responsibilities as Secretary of State how does your faith play into those responsibilities? You obviously are interacting with our international neighbors on a daily basis, and some who may not be sympathetic with your faith, how does that -- your faith, what role does it play in your daily responsibilities?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, as I said first of all, it's a source of great personal strength, but I think it also brings me to believe that America should stand for some issues that perhaps others will not, like religious freedom. This President has been a strong proponent of religious freedom and I have heard the President say to, for instance, President Jiang Zemin of China, people of faith are not a threat to your country, people of faith can be a great source of strength for a country in transition. And I've said that myself on a number of occasions, you know, give people the access that they desire to the Almighty, to their Creator, and you'll find that those are some of your most committed citizens, some of your most compassionate citizens. It's not that you have to be a person of faith to be committed or compassionate, but our history tells us that some of the most committed and the most compassionate have been people have faith.

QUESTION: That's wonderful. You mentioned religious freedom. And regarding the persecution of Abdul Rahman, the Afghani Christian, who I know you're familiar with, was imprisoned and faced the prospect of execution. In both the Afghani and Iraqi constitutions they're based on the Shari'a law which requires Muslims who reject Islam should be put to death. Some would claim that we maybe have been a little too quick to congratulate ourselves for liberating Afghanistan from the rule of jihadist, only to see it ruled by Islamists who want to execute a professing Christian. What is being done to secure the religious liberty of other Afghani and Iraqi Christians and other non-Muslims?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, it is something that we bring up all the time in our discussions. I myself was personally involved in the case of Rahman, and talked personally to Afghans including the President about that it would just not be acceptable or understood if, in fact, someone was executed for his Christian faith.

I think we have to recognize that these are young democracies. They're coming to terms with the relationship of religion and politics. The Muslim world is coming to terms with -- in places where democracy has been denied to how Islam and democracy are going to relate to one another. In countries that are democratic, where even you have majorities of Islamics – of Muslims like Indonesia, for instance, or in a place like India where Muslims and Christians and Hindi all live together, what we've learned is that democracy does protect people's rights to freedom. And so these are young democracies. They're going through their growing pains.

But I would just remind people that the Afghan constitution also is devoted to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which does allow freedom of conscience and faith. And unlike the Taliban before them where we would have no way to address this issue, with this government that is trying to come to terms with the issues of personal freedom and Islam, there's a way to address it. So I think there is tremendous progress here.

QUESTION: That's good. It's just a matter of them catching up to their constitution.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. This young democracy, they'll have their ups and downs, but we've had our own ups and downs in our democracy.

QUESTION: Yes, we have.

SECRETARY RICE: We've had our own struggles with how to incorporate people who are different. My ancestors at the time of the Constitution were three-fifths of a man, and so we have to recognize that democracy is hard, but it's the only system that is going to make it possible to resolve issues like that.

QUESTION: That's excellent. Thank you very much. We've been -- obviously Southern Baptists have been focused on the sanctity of human life and we have applauded the President and his efforts in advancing a culture of life. Some of our neighbors have not been as focused. What would you say is your strategy for helping other nations to not restrict our advances as we interact with, say in the Netherlands with promoting euthanasia and those who oppose it? How can we keep them from hindering our advances in these areas?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we very actively oppose in international conventions and in UN resolutions any language that we think would -- that would not be consistent with the President's policies on the culture of life. We also on issues like abortion, where American aid used to be used in places where -- it used to be permitted to be used with groups that openly advocated abortion, which was wrong. The United States does not do that. We have been very aggressive in our promotion of issues like human trafficking, which of course I think is -- it's support for the dignity of every human being. And so we do actively oppose international conventions or resolutions that might imply that we should not as a country pursue our own policies consistent with culture of life.

And then we also try to use the bully pulpit to remind people that a culture of life is important whether it's a young girl who is being trafficked or whether it's a person suffering with AIDS that we have policies that address that in a compassionate way. But all of this has to begin with respect for life.

QUESTION: That's wonderful. Thank you so much, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you.

QUESTION: I appreciate your time.

SECRETARY RICE: It's a pleasure to be with you.

QUESTION: It is our pleasure.



Released on June 15, 2006


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