Our leaders must show moral courage in the face of persecution

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Too often, in the face of global atrocities, oppression, and the denial of human rights and fundamental freedoms, those with the biggest platforms — elected officials, cultural icons, and leaders of our biggest companies — are sadly silent.

From LeBron James, the NBA to Disney, keep silent about Chinese human rights atrocities in order to prevent government censors from storming the bottom line of those elected to represent our nation that satisfies tyrants in the name of appeasement and political considerations, it exists in the darkness of this silence that allows evil to flourish. That is why we need moral courage in the face of injustice.

The personal cost of defending human rights and human dignity is high. We both felt it. Enes was suspended from the NBA and had to endure his father’s imprisonment in Turkey as a result of defending freedom. Tina spent the first weeks of her pregnancy in Iraq after the ISIS invasion, once holding in her arms a grieving woman whose baby was snatched by violent extremists.

We are united and inspired every day by the knowledge that around the world there are many who live in the darkness of oppression and tyranny who daily put their lives and well-being on the line to fight for their families to secure the protection of the freedom we enjoy here in the United States.

Tina Ramirez, President and CEO of Hardwired Global, meets Iraqi children in Iraq.

Tina Ramirez, President and CEO of Hardwired Global, meets Iraqi children in Iraq.
(Tina Ramirez)

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Today, the human rights fighters who embolden them in the worst environments on earth still believe that the improbable is possible and that the obstacles they face can be overcome. We will not let them fight alone.

We are all more alike than we are different, and these differences should be the starting points for discussion rather than flash points in conflict.

It is astonishing and shameful that so much of the world is still chained in chains of persecution in 2022. For individuals under authoritarian rule, the horror of imprisonment or extreme suffering is a very real existence. These grievances are not hidden, it is clear to all of us to see.

Uyghur protesters take part in a protest against China, in Istanbul, Turkey, October 1, 2021.

Uyghur protesters take part in a protest against China, in Istanbul, Turkey, October 1, 2021.
(Reuters/Dilara Senkaya)

From Uyghur Muslims in China who have been imprisoned and forced into concentration camps to Christian schoolgirls who have been publicly murdered in Nigeria, all people of all faiths are entitled to the same rights, dignity and respect.

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It is difficult for each of us to believe in the value and inherent dignity of all people, and we are all compelled to be free. As such, it is imperative that we speak up on behalf of the victims of this cruelty and violence.

As President Ronald Reagan said, “America is a shining city on a hill whose light guides the beacon of freedom-loving people everywhere.”

President Ronald Reagan famously said, "America is a shining city on a hill whose light guides the beacon of freedom-loving people everywhere." (AP Photo)

President Ronald Reagan famously said, “America is a shining city on a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” (AP Photo)

This concept is at the core of why Anis chose to become an American, why Tina founded her nonprofit organization for religious freedom, and why we have dedicated our lives to the cause of advancing human rights around the world.

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If America is to continue to be that shining city, we must keep this beacon light to be steady and strong. To do so requires a risk, and most of all, moral courage.

We must expect those at the helm of our largest corporations, those in the celebrity spotlight through sports and entertainment, and especially those elected to represent us as Americans, to have the moral courage to stand up against tyrants and stand up for the most vulnerable and oppressed. If those in the leadership position lack the courage to do so, we simply need new leaders.

Tina Ramirez is the president of Hardwired Global, a human rights organization, and was the founding director of the bipartisan International Religious Freedom Caucus in Congress.

Click here to read more by Tina Ramirez

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