“Documents show the court has denied his request to travel to the United States to receive the Lantos prize, an award from an American foundation honoring former House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Lantos. Prior recipients of the prize include Hillary Clinton, the Dalai Lama, and Elie Wiesel. Wong, whose activist work was the subject of a 2017 Netflix documentary, would have accepted the award in Washington next month had he been able to travel.”
In May of 2017, the Lantos Foundation joined with past Religious Freedom Ambassadors and Special Envoys on anti-Semitism in urging the Trump administration to move quickly to nominate qualified candidates for these important posts. A year and a half later, the post of Special Envoy to Combat anti-Semitism remains unfilled in the Trump administration.
During the past 18 months the need for American leadership in confronting anti-Semitism has only become more acute. From the disturbing efforts in Poland to criminalize honest discussion about the Holocaust, to the murder of French Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris, the news is filled with grim reminders of the growing strength of anti-Semitism globally. And just a few days ago, 11 innocent worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh PA, were massacred by a homegrown Nazi.
Now more than ever, it is urgent that the Trump administration demonstrate its determination to confront this evil wherever it rears its ugly head. One important step in this regard is the appointment of the Special Envoy to Combat anti-Semitism with no further delay.
The Lantos Foundation is encouraged by news reports suggesting that an individual will be named to this position in the coming days. We will continue to monitor developments and urge the administration to not only name a Special Envoy, but to make the fight against anti-Semitism and racism a priority both at home and abroad.
When I first heard the shocking news about the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, I immediately thought of my late father, Tom Lantos. He came to the United States as a young teenager after surviving the horrors of the Holocaust in his native Hungary. He had a deep and abiding love for America, a land of freedom that opened its doors to this young persecuted immigrant, and offered him a second chance at life. Dad went on to serve his beloved adopted country as the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress. He was one of our nation’s most powerful advocates for human rights and justice.
I found myself wishing that Dad were still alive to lend his uniquely eloquent voice to our public discussion about this tragic event and the dangerous vein of violent anti-Semitism it has exposed. Then, upon further reflection, I realized that he had already left behind words that can absolutely help all of us through this difficult time.
My father’s most memorable quote is, “The veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.” These wise words reflect the sober reality that the freedom, tolerance, security, and rule of law that are the hallmarks of a civilized society can never be taken for granted. This is something my father understood from the sorrows of his own lived experiences. His words also make it clear that the responsibility for defending our sacred civilization rests with each of us. That is a bracing, but also empowering thought; one that we must take to heart. This moment is a challenge to each of us, but I know we can and must be equal to it.
Despite the suffering of his early life that gave my father a clear-eyed view of the world and the evil that exists in it, he somehow remained a man of profound optimism. Whenever I faced personal setbacks or despaired over a crisis in the life of our nation, he would say in his elegant Hungarian accent, “Don’t worry darling, we are just bending a windy corner of history and right around this corner are bright blue skies and wonderful possibilities.” If he could believe that after all he had experienced, then surely we can too.
Like all of us, my father would have been heartbroken and horrified by the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue. He would have mourned and honored the slain, condemned the hatred and evil that took their lives, and then he would have gotten right back to work guarding our shared civilization. That is exactly what I intend to do.
Katrina Lantos Swett
Today, The Newsmakers featured Lantos Foundation President, Katrina Lantos Swett in a panel broadcast on the recent dramatic release of Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkish detention.
Joined by former US diplomat and White House official Matthew Bryza, former Turkish Ambassador to the US Faruk Logoglu, and political analyst and author Onur Erim, Katrina discussed Pastor Brunson's release and the degradation of rule of law in Turkey.
The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi should send shudders down the back of any person or government that respects the rule of law, democracy, and freedom of the press. We call on the Trump Administration to fully support this investigation, halt further engagement with the Saudi government until more is known in this rapidly evolving story, and if appropriate, immediately consider Magnitsky sanctions. Sending our Treasury Secretary to Riyadh in less than two weeks sends the wrong message about the US's intent to uphold the rule of law and basic human decency.
Today, the Lantos Foundation released a statement on the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkish imprisonment and called on the US to advocate for Erdoğan’s targeted communities.
CONCORD, NH – The Lantos Foundation welcomes the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson and hopes that it will be a harbinger of further positive steps for Turkey in the near future. The charges against Pastor Brunson were completely lacking in credibility from the very beginning, as was clear to all fair and impartial observers. This earnest man of God was unjustly caught up in President Erdoğan’s outrageous lashing out at perceived enemies in the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt.
Since 2016, as many as 160,000 people in Turkey have been arrested, detained, or fired from their jobs - including 245 imprisoned journalists and more than 100 additional journalists who have had arrest warrants issued against them. This ongoing purge has been part of a systematic degradation of democracy and human rights in Turkey and growing authoritarianism on the part of Mr. Erdoğan.
Turkey also continues to hold an estimated twenty Turkish-Americans and three Turkish employees of the American consular mission in Turkey who are being unjustly detained for no credible reason.
Lantos Foundation President Katrina Lantos Swett said:
“The release of Pastor Brunson is both an answer to prayers and a vindication of the importance of standing up for religious freedom, human rights, and the rule of law; both at home and abroad. It is important that in the midst of our celebration of Pastor Brunson’s well deserved freedom that we not forget the tens of thousands of other victims of Erdoğan’s brutal and lawless crackdown on Turkish society. The US government cannot declare victory and move on. We must forcefully advocate on behalf of other targeted communities, whether they be minority Christians, Jews, Gulenist Muslims, peaceful Kurds, journalists, academicians, civil society defenders, or others. Turkey is a crucial NATO ally and this should strengthen our determination to hold the Erdoğan government accountable for its widespread violation of international human rights law.”
Today, The Hill featured our op-ed, "An unlikely Ugandan hero emerges" outlining Parliament member Bobi Wine's arrest and torture at the hands of President Museveni’s security forces.
"Following enormous international outcry over the abuse of Bobi Wine, he was permitted to leave Uganda to receive medical treatment. When I met him in Washington, Wine was preparing to return to Uganda despite the very real risk that his well-being, and perhaps his life, could be in jeopardy. Upon his arrival, his fans were prohibited from greeting him and he was taken directly to his home via police escort. Despite these realities, I remain struck by Wine’s quiet courage, his steely determination, and his willingness to sacrifice for a cause larger than himself." - Katrina Lantos Swett, Lantos Foundation President
This week the Lantos Foundation joined forces with 33 human rights organizations and NGO’s on a joint letter urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to impose Magnitsky sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for human rights violations in Xinjiang and Tibet. The full letter can be read by clicking the image below.
September 6, 2018
For Immediate Release
Contact: Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett
CONCORD, NH – The Lantos Foundation proudly announces the release of “The Noble Banner of Human Rights: Essays in Memory of Tom Lantos.” This collection of essays, authored by a global group of academics and edited by Dr. Anna-Maria Biro and Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, remembers the extensive body of Tom Lantos’ human rights work and offers new insights on a range of topical current issues including human rights education, religious freedom, post-conflict justice, minority rights, and identity politics. The book also features a tribute by former United States Vice President Joe Biden and an introduction by Lantos’ long time Chief of Staff, Ambassador Robert King.
Upon publication of the book, Lantos Foundation president, Katrina Lantos Swett, released the following statement:
“We are proud to have collaborated with the Tom Lantos Institute on this important book that honors my father’s life's passion. As the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in the United States Congress, Tom Lantos held both a unique historic viewpoint and a powerful platform to address the wrongs he saw in the world. This book takes a current look at some of the key human rights issues to which he devoted his life. We are also extraordinarily grateful to Tom’s dear friends and confidantes who graciously contributed to the book, most notably Vice President Joe Biden. Readers will also gain incredible insight into Tom’s Congressional career through the eyes of his long-time Chief of Staff, Ambassador Bob King.”
Copies of "Noble Banner of Human Rights: Essays in Memory of Tom Lantos” can be purchased through the Brill website at https://brill.com/view/title/38919.
Tribute, by Vice President Joe Biden:
“Tom saw the pull of evil in our world so clearly. He witnessed profound horrors as a teenager. Almost everyone he cared about in the world was ripped away from him. But rather than allow suffering to shutter his heart or blunt his capacity to care—a choice that would have been completely understandable given everything that he endured—Tom made it his life’s work to defend others from brutality. Tom always understood that because his life was saved, it must be filled with purpose, and he didn’t waste a single moment.”
Preface, by Katrina Lantos Swett:
“My father’s singular perspective as the only member of Congress who had experienced the horrors of the Holocaust from the Nazi despots of the right, and the grievous oppression of his native Hungary under the Communists of the left, gave Dad unparalleled credibility with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Beyond that, his combination of brilliance, wit and his special Magyar flair, made him one of the most admired Congressional voices. I literally can’t count the number of times ordinary Americans would reach out to our family to say; “I listened to your father on C-Span today, and he is the only one in Washington who seems to make any sense” or “Whenever I hear Tom Lantos on the radio or the TV I rush to listen because with his distinguished Hungarian accent and his analytical mind, he makes the others sound like amateurs” or my personal favorites were the countless people who wrote over the years to say, “We wish Tom hadn’t been born abroad so he could run for President - he would have my vote.”
With the passing of Senator John McCain, our nation lost not only a leader of extraordinary courage and patriotism, but also one of our greatest advocates for human rights and justice. Senator McCain shared a powerful bond with my late father Tom Lantos. Each of them endured searing hardship early in their lives, Tom Lantos during the Holocaust, and John McCain as a POW in Vietnam for five and a half years. They both emerged from their crucibles with an unshakable conviction that we are our brother’s keepers and that America’s greatness lies in her commitment to the fundamental dignity and rights of all human beings. Each of these remarkable men had the great privilege of serving the country they loved in the United States Congress and our nation is poorer for the absence of these two statesmen.
The Lantos Foundation was honored when Senator McCain agreed to bestow our very first Lantos Human Rights Prize upon His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the fall of 2009. We treasure the memory of that inaugural Lantos Prize celebration and are uplifted by the words of Senator McCain on that occasion. Speaking of his friend and colleague, Tom Lantos, the Senator said,
“He was born outside the United States and knew personally what human beings can do when they are ungoverned by the respect for the inherent dignity of every human being and unmoved by a moral duty to defend them against oppression. His voice, Tom Lantos’ voice was among the clearest and most persuasive in our country urging Americans to experience assaults on anyone’s dignity as an assault on our own conscience…We can’t replace Tom’s voice, but we can help to ensure it is not forgotten wherever, whenever, the rights of man are beset by the ambitions of despots.”
In his final letter to his fellow Americans, John McCain invoked the words he spoke to the nation on election night 2008 when he offered his congratulations to his opponent, Barack Obama, in that hard fought presidential contest.
I remember that night vividly because I shed tears twice. First I cried at the joy and amazement of having lived to witness the election of our nation’s first African American President. Secondly, I wept at the gracious and heartfelt eloquence of John McCain in extending his support to President Obama and calling on each of us to shoulder the burden that history has placed on our shoulders.
He said, “I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans…to not despair of our present difficulties but to believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.”
We at the Lantos Foundation are proud to have known John McCain and to have had his support and leadership for the causes to which we daily dedicate our own lives and efforts. We will take continuing inspiration from his example and will live by the following words from his final memoir:
“I want to urge Americans for as long as I can to remember that this shared devotion to human rights is our truest heritage and our most important loyalty.”
Senator McCain's remarks begin at timestamp 09:30.