Recently, Nikki Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, delivered some poignant remarks regarding her journey to Christianity at the Religious Freedom Summit.
The three-day Ministerial for the Advancement of Religious Freedom was held at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. During her address at the event, the ambassador spoke about her spiritual journey, starting from the beginning.
Haley was born in Bamberg, South Carolina. Her parents, who practice the Sikh faith, immigrated to the United States from India in 1969. In her opening statement at the Religious Freedom Summit, the former Governor of South Carolina said, “It says everything about our country that this first ministerial has been devoted to the importance of preserving, protecting and expanding religious freedom.”
“America’s respect for religious freedom informs our foreign policy,” she said. “It is an overlooked weapon in our modern arsenal of democracy.”
Before revealing how religious freedom is “personal” to her, Haley stated that it is a “means to protect peace and security.” Recalling her parents move to America, the former Governor of South Carolina said, “I’m fortunate to benefit from religious tolerance.” She went on to state, “My Dad wore a turban and still does to this day. We were the first Indian-American family in our small town in South Carolina.” Laughter broke out in the crowd when Haley reminisced about how her family “stood out.”
Haley shared with the audience that many people in her hometown visited her childhood house in an attempt to evangelize her Sikh family. She said, “People would show up at our door asking us to convert to their religion. Some had tears in their eyes because they sincerely believed that eternal damnation awaited those who didn’t share their faith.” The former Governor of South Carolina recounted one such visit involving a well-intentioned Christian giving her older sister a Bible. When the ambassador’s mother saw the Bible, she instructed Haley’s sister to read “it from cover to cover.” Haley’s mother reportedly stated, “There’s truth in there.”
After speaking about her family, the former Governor of South Carolina talked about her experience with Christianity.
“Twenty years ago, my faith journey took me to Christianity,” she said. “I have found great strength in my faith and trust in my heart, but I am a person who is humble in my faith. I don’t claim to have the wisdom to know what God has in store for me or for other people…there are many places in the world where my faith journey would have been impossible, places where governments deny their people the right to choose their faiths the right to have a faith at all.”
The ambassador described her parents’ ability to legally immigrate to the United States as a “great fortune.”
Speaking about her parents’ adopted homeland, Haley said, “Here, we not only protect our inalienable right to know God’s grace, we also know that true grace cannot be imposed by government. It must be embraced freely from within.”
Representing the United States during a trip to India in June 2018, The ambassador remarked, “We think freedom of religion is as important as freedom of rights and freedom of people.” Talking about her tenure as ambassador, Haley said “it has given me the chance to extend the remarkable example of American religious freedom, something I experienced first-hand, into the international arena.” Haley revealed that she’s seen how “peace and security are being threatened from the denial of religious freedom.”
Expounding upon this dilemma, the ambassador referred to the denial of religious liberties as “so destructive” due to the fact that it “represents the state elevating itself above the divine.”
Haley emphatically stated, “Denial of religious freedom is the ultimate authoritarianism. Limiting or denying religious freedom is a key way for governments to exert control over their people.” In her concluding remarks, the former Governor of South Carolina eloquently said, “Where there is religious tolerance, there is political tolerance. And where there is political tolerance, there is peace, security and prosperity.”
~ 1776 Christian