Tag archives: International Religious Liberty

Only the American Flag Should Be Flown at American Embassies Worldwide

by Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.

June 10, 2019

The Obama administration’s State Department spent eight years pushing the LGBT agenda onto vulnerable countries that often depend on our assistance, damaging our relations with these countries in the process. When President Trump entered office, he restored U.S. diplomacy’s proper respect for national sovereignty and ceased the Obama-era cultural imperialism that pushed unwanted ideologies on indigenous populations around the world. Thus, the latest directive ordering U.S. embassies not to fly flags celebrating an LGBT lifestyle worldwide is only a natural continuation of this policy, carried out by President Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—who is doing his job despite insubordinate diplomats and career State Department staffers openly defying orders.

It seems like a simple thing for all to agree on a neutral approach—flying only the American flag at embassies around the world. This policy is unifying and is American. Yet it is apparently too much for a few radical LGBT activists masquerading as diplomats and insubordinate staffers still operating in President Trump’s State Department.

In a 2011 presidential memo, President Obama instructed federal agencies to advance LGBT policies internationally. The effects of this instruction were wide-reaching—and not helpful to our foreign relationships.

In Kenya, President Obama highlighted LGBT policies in a 2015 speech. The Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, pushed back against this imposition of cultural values. He responded, “The fact of the matter is Kenya and the U.S. share so many values: common love for democracy, entrepreneurship, value for families—these are some things that we share… But there are some things that we must admit we don’t share. Our culture, our societies don’t accept.” President Obama nevertheless continued to push his ideology on other countries. President Trump is actually showing respect for other cultures by refusing to do so.

When President Obama pressed the matter again in Africa, Senegal’s President Macky Sall rebuked him, saying those issues were not supported in his country.

Foreign state leaders weren’t alone in resisting the United States’ cultural imperialism. In 2017, nearly 300 ministers and church leaders across the Caribbean sent a letter urging President Trump to end the U.S. export of the LGBT agenda. They called the attempt to push LGBT policies on their countries “coercion” and they specifically expressed concern over the influence of the State Department’s special envoy for LGBT issues (a role President Obama created in 2015)—who is still pushing LBGT policies on the small and vulnerable country of Nepal (a country, by the way, which is probably more concerned with the thousands killed in its natural disasters than with spreading the LGBT ideology).

In addition to browbeating from our leaders, the U.S. government under the Obama administration also devoted large sums of money to advance LGBT policies from the ground up. In Macedonia, USAID worked to find an LGBT organization to give $300,000 to promote the LBGT agenda in the country, undermining the country’s pro-family government. Nearby, former Vice President Joe Biden pushed LGBT issues in an address to Romanian Civil Society Groups and Students, despite the fact that many in Romania thought the U.S.’s meddling in their country deeply unhelpful.

The United States’ diplomatic platform is intended to strengthen our ties to other countries. The State Department should not use its influential role in world affairs to push a social agenda onto vulnerable countries. Yet that is exactly what President Obama did, and what President Trump and Secretary Pompeo are trying to stop. They should be applauded for doing so.

The push for special LGBT laws implies that human rights law currently does not protect people who identify as LGBT—which is just not true. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights already protect every individual from arbitrary arrest, torture, and extrajudicial killing by the state. The reason that everyone is and should be protected under these laws is because all humans have human dignity, and their sexual attraction or gender preference doesn’t change that. Further, people identifying as LGBT are entitled to the same respect, freedoms, and protections as everyone else, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, without fear of reprisal. This is precisely why we should not fly flags celebrating and pushing any social policy in the context of the internal affairs of foreign countries.

The United States has the chance to reset our relations with the countries that our previous push for LGBT policies have alienated. A proper understanding of international human rights law—consistent with our respect for national sovereignty, and preserving the universality of human rights—will enable us to do exactly that.

American embassies should fly only the American flag. This should not be controversial.

Powerful Testimony from a Christian Survivor of North Korea

by Family Research Council

June 7, 2019

The following is a transcript of testimony (at 57:00) given by Ji Hyeona at the Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum on May 31, 2019. It was translated by Professor Hyun Song.

My name is Hyeona Ji, and I escaped North Korea to seek my God-given freedom and I now have become a devout Christian living in South Korea.

[…]

In North Korea, a country ranked #1 for 18 years as the worst persecutor of Christians, the very idea of freedom and human rights is foreign. I never heard of or used those words while in North Korea, and they do not fit the North Korean society.

In North Korea, faith means being loyal to the Kim family dictatorship.

I first came across the Bible in North Korea. My mother went to China to find food during the difficult period in North Korea and brought back a small Bible which I read every day.

One day I was called to the local Ministry of State Security… and there, I was tortured and beaten for reasons unknown. I was then asked, did I come into contact with any South Korean intelligence agents? I said I didn’t know what you’re talking about, and that’s when the agent placed my Bible on his desk. He told me to explain what this is all about. At that moment, I felt my heart stop.

Because in North Korea, if you believe in any other God or gods besides the Kim Il-sung and the Kim family dictators, you would be sent to a political prison camp or executed. I knew I had to be quick-thinking, so I said I found it while I was walking around and I wanted to turn it in but I didn’t have time.

So, I lied. I had to lie because that was the only way I could survive and get out of that situation. The security agent told me he would check on this and he repeatedly told me if I did this again that he would not forgive me. He put fear in me and then released me.

I found out later that my best friend actually turned in the Bible and reported me to the authorities.

So, having faith in North Korea—where everyone monitored each other and surveilled each other—having faith was an impossible thing to do.

I escaped four times from North Korea, and I was repatriated by the Chinese authorities three times. During this process of escape and repatriation, I was sent to Prison Camp #11 – Labor Reform Prison Camp. And there, I was forced to do slave-like labor, and I saw so many people die from simple illnesses like diarrhea, starvation, and over-work.

The only thing the living could do for the dead in the prison camp was close the eyes of the people who passed away—who died in the prison camp.

[…]

Fortunately, I was released on Kim Jong Il’s birthday on February 16, 2000 from Prison Camp #11. I miraculously survived, and I escaped North Korea again. However, I was arrested by Chinese authorities and then repatriated back to North Korea again. At this point, I was three months pregnant.

The North Korean regime does not recognize mixed race children. So, North Korean security agents, they force these women who come back pregnant with Chinese babies—who are often sold into trafficking situations—to have forced abortions by carrying heavy cement blocks in detention facilities or being forced to do a repeated sitting down and standing up motion. Or, in the case of six month or longer pregnant North Korean defector women, they will… do medicinally induced abortion.

Every night, I heard the screams of women going through forced abortions in the prison camp.

I too could not avoid this fate, as I was three months pregnant with a half-Chinese, half-Korean baby in my womb.

Where they placed me was not a hospital bed, but it was a desk. And a fearful-looking doctor forcibly pried open my legs and inserted forceps and started killing my baby in my womb by cutting up and shredding my baby.

This was all done without any anesthesia used on me and the physical pain was so hard to endure.

I could hear the doctor being frustrated with the fact that the shredded parts of my baby… were not falling off the forceps.

So, he would bang the forceps against a dish to get rid of the pieces of my baby’s body. And that sound still rings in my ears to this day.

I cried out to God, “God, do you see this? How come I have to take this painful violent choice? Were my prayers not enough for you?”

And I heard the voice of God say back to me, “Does this hurt? Does this hurt a lot? Then now you understand what I went through when I sent my son to the world.” This is when I knew the heart of God.

And I determined that I would survive and I would tell the world about the Christian persecution of the North Korean regime and the human rights violations going on in the country and to spread the Good News of Jesus in North Korea.

And I escaped North Korea again.

Once I arrived in South Korea after my escape, I became an activist. And I am involved with work sending leaflets and Christian materials into North Korea via balloons and working as an activist.

And I also am taking this message throughout the world to tell the people all around the world about the human rights situation in North Korea.

My message is that human rights is the right for people to enjoy the freedom of God-given faith.

So, today, I want to share… three suggestions of how we can pressure the Chinese government, and, more importantly, the North Korean government, to stop the persecution of Christians.

First of all, North Korea is a country that kills people who believe in Jesus and persecutes them.

So, the U.S. Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, and this is where one of the articles… of the act says that countries of particular concern when it comes to religious persecution must face a punishment, diplomatically and through economic sanctions, so that they will change their ways. North Korea fits this perfectly.

Second, in China, North Korean women who are repatriated into North Korea who are pregnant are forced to undergo abortion… and there are currently 250,000 estimated refugees living in China. A lot of them have come into contact with Christianity and are attending churches.

North Korean defector women are investigated by Chinese authorities before being handed over to North Korean authorities. And as a result of the investigation, depending on how much exposure they’ve had to people from South Korea or Americans in China, they’re either sent to a total control zone political prison camp, or sent to a prison, or executed.

And China, while still being a member of the Security Council of the U.N., and also being a party to the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, they violate the rights of North Korean defectors. They do not recognize them as refugees. So, the voice against China calling out their actions must grow louder.

[…]

In closing, the principle of Responsibility to Protect, or R2P, says that countries should protect and help those who are facing persecution and are facing this sort of danger.

And so, I believe… that the international community should pressure the Chinese government to stop the forced repatriation of North Korean defectors.

[…]

So, as Moses said to the Pharaoh, we cry out to the North Korean government, “Let my people go.”

Thank you.

Why the American Church Must Stand for International Religious Liberty

by Family Research Council

June 6, 2019

On May 30th, Travis Weber, FRC’s Vice President for Policy and Director of the Center for Religious Liberty, made the following remarks at the Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum:

In a recent study, the Pew Research Center found that Christians were targeted for religious persecution in 144 countries, making them a persecuted group in almost three quarters of the world’s nation states.

What is to be done?

I would submit that persecuted Christians in China and elsewhere in Asia need a reawaking on the part of the American church to advocate—which it for now still has the freedom to do—on their behalf. This issue must be on the hearts and minds of America’s Christians. If we don’t use our freedom to speak up for our fellow believers overseas, who will?

Religious freedom is not just an American right. It is a human right.

All people, including the world’s Christian communities, must be protected in their exercise of this right. This is just as apparent today as it was during the post-World War II rebuilding period from which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born. Article 18, which protects the freedom of religion worldwide, is just as relevant today as it was then.

In our increasingly interconnected world, we live in a global context which is also increasingly hostile to religious liberty. It’s obvious—particularly from the worsening trend in China—that this issue does not just solve itself.

The American church must engage in the cause of international religious freedom.

The American church believes that God is in control, but we also have a choice to make. When we see fellow human suffering, how can we not say something?

This very fact also leads us to advocate for people of other faiths, for they are also made in the image of God. Their consciences must also be protected. The Christian understands that God does not force us to believe in him, so we should not use the power of government to force human beings to believe a certain way either.

Put in context, this means that the Christian church should also advocate for persecuted groups like China’s Uyghurs. A few weeks ago, I met with a Uyghur Muslim whose brother is imprisoned in a camp. My heart weighed heavily for him, and I prayed for the safety and protection of his brother. We pledged to help bring attention to his case, and do what we can to free his brother.

When people are oppressed for matters of conscience and religious faith, it hits a sensitive spot with us for a reason—conscience is unique to us as human beings; it marks us as human. The very fact that we are offended by such violations is testament to the importance of conscience, and the need to protect it.

China remains one of the worst violators of religious liberty in our time. As the United States and China continue to negotiate their trade partnership, religious freedom must be on the table. We cannot afford to let this opportunity pass. China must be called upon to do more to respect religious freedom and human rights—for all people.

In China’s eyes, the persecution of its Uyghurs and Christians (and other groups) is connected. China views the religious beliefs of these groups not as something to be allowed and protected, but as a threat to the political ideology of the state and to the authority of the Communist party.

This is the exact opposite of the understanding of religious freedom which is at the core of the American experiment—which holds a human being’s obligation to God as sacred and in need of protection from civil government. The very fact that this obligation to God is above civil government makes it a matter of conscience.

This conscience-based understanding of religious freedom is also that which is reflected in the human right of religious freedom described in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is a right we must protect for all people.

30 Years After the Tiananmen Square Massacre, China Still Oppresses Its People

by Arielle Del Turco

June 4, 2019

Thirty years ago today, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army fired into crowds of its own people—thousands of student-led protestors calling for a more democratic government. This marked a brutal end to the pro-democracy demonstrations that had been going on for weeks in Tiananmen Square.

While estimates suggest that several hundred to thousands of people died that day, an official death toll has never been released.

Fast forward to today and Chinese officials continue to dig their heels in and defend the actions taken by the Communist party which has come to be known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe cited the government’s actions in this incident as “the reason the stability of the country has been maintained.”

However, denial of past wrongs is the least of China’s problems.

The events at Tiananmen Square merely reflected the willingness of the Chinese Communist Party to put their ideology above the welfare, freedom, and even the lives of its own people. This sentiment has continued to grow within the Chinese government, and it has had tragic consequences for Chinese residents—especially those who wish to choose and live out a faith not approved by the communist regime.

China’s decades-long crackdown on Christians is continuing and it’s only getting worse.

The main targets of China’s campaign against Christianity are those who attend “underground” churches not registered with the government. In 2018, an estimated 100,000 Christians were arrested; most of these arrests were followed by short-term detention.

Last year, the Chinese government started a “thought reform” campaign to promote “Chinese Christianity.” The plan includes “retranslating and annotating” the Bible to find similarities with socialism. This is essentially an attempt to use Christianity as a platform to advance the communist party. Churches and believers who refuse to compromise their faith this way will likely face consequences. Rural underground churches have been forced to close and their members sent to labor camps.

The churches that seek and attain approval from the state don’t fare much better.

A variety of oppressive restrictions are forced upon state-sanctioned churches. Minors are banned from entering churches. The online sales of Bibles are blocked. Even the Catholic Catechism is censored. This April, Chinese authorities prevented several state-sanctioned churches from holding worship services and warned Christians not to participate in Easter celebrations.

While the suppression of Christianity is concerning, Christians aren’t the only victims of the Chinese government’s disapproval.

In China’s Xinjiang province, approximately one million Uyghur Muslims are detained in “re-education” prison camps, where they are subjected to torture and indoctrination by the communist party. Even within the last year, China has continued to add buildings to these camps—presumably with the intention of detaining more Uyghurs.

China is continually using technological advancements to crack down on Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Facial recognition technology—fixed to the entrances of supermarkets, malls, and police checkpoints every few hundred feet—is used to track Uyghurs as they go about their day.

China has also been accused of harvesting organs from its Uyghur population as they try to profit from their brutal human rights abuses.

In light of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, none of these human rights violations and religious freedom concerns should be a surprise. In Tiananmen, the Chinese government made clear that they wouldn’t tolerate any ideas that question the political ideology of the state.

Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are deeply connected—and the Chinese government feels threatened by both.

Just like China’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989, today China cracks down on its religious minorities.

The trend of worsening religious freedom violations and increasing attacks on free speech in China tells us this isn’t an issue that’s going to resolve itself.

As we remember the victims of the Tiananmen Square Massacre today, we must also remember and pray for those who are continuing to suffer under China’s repressive regime.

With Modi’s Reelection, India’s Religious Minorities Remain Under Threat

by Arielle Del Turco

May 31, 2019

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was re-elected for another five-year term last week in a decisive victory. The Hindu nationalist party he represents, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), secured a majority in the lower house of Parliament, earning the most seats in the history of the party.

All of this is bad news for the Christians living in India.

Persecution of Christians has grown significantly worse during Modi’s leadership and the rise of the BJP. The BJP advances a growing narrative that suggests “to be Indian is to be Hindu.” The fact that Christian and Muslim minorities have chosen a faith other than Hinduism is seen as an attack on the national identity of India. Earlier this year, BJP Member of Parliament Bharat Singh even claimed Christian missionaries were “a threat to the unity of the country.”

The popularity of the BJP’s ideology is reflected in actions taken not just by the government, but also by mobs and vigilante groups. Militant groups are known to patrol neighborhoods “looking for those who do not conform to society’s religious norms.” For Christians in India, mob violence is a continual threat. Violence against the Christian community has included beatings, sexual assault, and forced conversions to Hinduism. In 2017, there were 736 reported attacks against Indian Christians. That’s up from 358 reported attacks in 2016.

Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List ranks India as one of the top ten countries where it’s most dangerous to be a Christian. Before Modi was elected to his first term as Prime Minister in 2014, India was listed as No. 31.

At the recent Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum, speakers addressed India’s use of anti-conversion laws to target Christians and limit the natural expression of beliefs which is part of religious freedom. The provisions of India’s anti-conversion laws prohibit “fraudulent” conversions or offering “inducements” to convert. For instance, when a Christian claims the price for not accepting Jesus is hell (part of the basic message of Christianity), that’s seen as coercive and a violation of the anti-conversion law.

This has already had consequences for the people of India. Hindu radicals have begun to display “a pattern of accusing Christians of forced conversion, which is a crime in certain Indian states that can be punished with imprisonment.” In 2017, Christian humanitarian aid organization Compassion International was accused of actively attempting to convert children. They were subsequently forced to stop operating in the country. The organization was India’s largest single foreign donor and had provided medical care, meals, and tuition money for Indian children.

Christians aren’t the only victims of the BJP’s attempts to make India an exclusively Hindu country. Muslims in India are also fearful about Modi’s second term and the increasing influence of the BJP.

Modi’s right-hand man, Amit Shah, who was newly given charge of the Ministry of Home Affairs in Modi’s new cabinet, has been particularly critical of Muslims. Shah has called Muslim migrants “infiltrators” and “termites” and promised to “remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddha, Hindus and Sikhs.”

Like the Christian community, Muslims have also been the victims of Hindu mob violence. They are often targeted because they eat beef, an offense to Hindus who believe cows are sacred. Since 2015, 36 Muslims have been killed by mobs in the name of “cow protection.”

Religious minorities in India are concerned about what Modi’s re-election and the BJP’s parliamentary victory means for religious freedom in the next few years. As people who care about religious liberty, we need to be monitoring developments in India and praying for the persecuted.

The Trump administration currently wants to maintain a positive relationship with Modi’s government because we need strong allies in a region that continually poses a risk to U.S. national security. There is value in that strategy. Yet, even as U.S. leaders continue to work with the government of India, they should make clear in that relationship that the U.S. values religious freedom and that we notice the way our allies treat their religious minorities.

China Continues to Oppress the Uyghurs. Our Trade Talks Can Be a Platform for Change.

by Arielle Del Turco

May 13, 2019

Last week, WIRED featured a report on the Chinese government’s extensive use of technology as they continue to oppress religious minorities.

The Chinese government has been involved in a long-running series of crackdowns against their Uyghur population, a Muslim minority group. China currently holds approximately one million Uyghurs in prison camps, where they are subjected to torture and indoctrination by the communist party. China claims these are counter-terrorism measures.

As technology has evolved, it has provided the Chinese government with more tools to harass this community. In recent years, China has been monitoring social media apps—including WeChat, an app which uses the Uyghur language—supposedly to stamp out pornography and information leading to violence and terrorism.

Uyghurs are often arrested for information found on their phones, including downloading apps blocked in China such as WhatsApp, or being caught with religious content on their phones.

China’s Uyghur population is concentrated in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. China has started to use facial recognition technology to track Uyghurs throughout the province as they go about their day. Facial recognition devices are fixed to the entrances of supermarkets, malls, hospitals, and at police checkpoints every few hundred feet.

This report of China’s surveillance crackdown on one of their religious minority communities is a reminder of the serious violations of religious freedom that the Chinese government continues to perpetrate against its own people.

We can be thankful that the U.S. has a leader in President Trump who stands up to China and isn’t timid on the international stage. In addition to the positive impact religious freedom has on economic development, trade discussions can be a platform to raise human rights concerns and advance religious freedom for the benefit of oppressed communities. We can hope and pray that the Trump administration will use the current trade talks with China to do just that.

Asia Bibi Is Finally Free!

by Arielle Del Turco

May 8, 2019

This week marked a long-awaited victory for religious freedom when Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row for a blasphemy charge in Pakistan, was finally reunited with her family in Canada.

As confirmed by her lawyer Saif Ul Malook earlier this morning: After being freed from death row last year, the mother of five has arrived in Canada, on the heels of “repeated death threats from religious extremists in Pakistan, following the quashing of her conviction for blasphemy.”

Bibi had been separated from her family and was living in safe houses since her sentence was thrown out last year. (Bibi was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to death after she was accused of insulting the name of the Prophet Mohammed during a dispute with Muslim colleagues.) Her children are already in Canada, and she now joins them there.

It is encouraging to see Bibi finally released to a safe destination after her plight and quest for justice which lasted nearly ten years.

While this development is positive, it serves to highlight the continued threat to religious liberty posed by blasphemy laws.

Just last week, Family Research Council released a report on the status of apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws (which threaten the ability to freely live out and choose or change one’s faith) around the world, and the threat they pose to religious freedom.

The most widespread of these types of laws, blasphemy laws prohibit insults to religion. Featured in many Muslim countries, these laws are often abused and used to settle unrelated disputes—this is exactly what Bibi claimed happened to her.

Even as we celebrate this victory, we must continue to monitor the status of these laws which inhibit the freedom of religious expression. 

UK Report: 80 Percent of World’s Persecuted Religious Believers Are Christian

by Arielle Del Turco

May 8, 2019

A new report out of the UK this week highlights the severity of anti-Christian persecution around the world. Commissioned by the Foreign Secretary, the report states that an overwhelming majority (estimated at 80 percent) of the world’s persecuted religious believers are Christians. It found that “evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity.”

The report features incidences of violent and social persecution committed against Christians by state and non-state actors. The trends presented are troubling.

In some African countries, such as in Mauritania, Islamic constitutions explicitly deny Christians their basic right to publicly express their religion. In South Asia, the growth of militant nationalism has been the main cause of Christian persecution. Furthermore, anti-conversion laws in South Asia explicitly prohibit people from converting to another religion, usually to protect the majority status of Hindu or Buddhist populations.

In East and Central Asia, authoritarian governments routinely discriminate against and intimidate Christians. Oppression experienced by Christians in several Asian countries is due to the influence Communist and nationalist ideologies have on their governments.

Even in Latin America, a largely Christian region, Christians have been “specifically targeted” for persecution from illegal organizations and paramilitary groups.

Yet, even in the face of these concerning developments, we have reasons to be hopeful. Some Middle East countries—such as the United Arab Emirates—are moving toward an openness to religious freedom. As evidence of this trend, the report cited the accord between the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr. Ahmed At-Tayyeb, and His Holiness Pope Francis in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year. At the signing, Dr. At-Tayyeb called on Muslims to protect Christian communities in the Middle East.

The Trump administration has played a part in the elevation of this issue on the global stage, having held the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the State Department last July, with another planned for this year. Right now, the U.S. has other opportunities on the international stage to demonstrate the importance of religious freedom. As we continue to engage in trade negotiations with China, we have a pathway to pressure the Chinese government to cease its persecution of Uyghurs, along with its detention and harassment of Christians, theft of religious symbols, and destruction of churches.

The UK report also calls on the international community to take actions to protect Christians across the globe: “Given the scale of persecution of Christians today, indications that it is getting worse and that its impact involves the decimation of some of the faith group’s oldest and most enduring communities, the need for governments to give increasing priority and specific targeted support to this faith community is not only necessary but increasingly urgent.”

This much-needed attention on religious freedom comes on the heels of the release of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) report on the world’s most egregious violators of religious freedom—which specifically highlighted the problems for religious freedom in China, Russia, and other oppressive states, in addition to the threat posed by cultural and legal opposition to religious freedom in much of the Islamic world. Just last week, Family Research Council released a report on the status of apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws (which threaten the ability to choose or change one’s faith) around the world, and the threat they pose to religious freedom.

While it might be disheartening to learn about the hardships Christians face daily around the world, it is encouraging that this issue is starting to receive the national and international attention it deserves. If we do not remain informed, advocate for policies protecting Christian communities, and submit these things to God in prayer, nothing will change.

Arielle Del Turco is the Research Assistant for FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty.

New Annual Report on International Religious Liberty Now Available

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 30, 2015

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), where I served briefly as Acting Director of Communications, has issued its 2015 annual report on religious liberty worldwide.

As noted by Knox Thames, USCIRF’s Director of Policy and Research, “The Commission is an independent U.S. government advisory body separate from the State Department that monitors religious freedom worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and the Congress.”

Individual country reports are available in English and in the national languages of each country. Thames comments that the Annual Report, released today, “documents religious freedom abuses and violations in 33 countries and makes county-specific policy recommendations for U.S. policy. This report covers the period of January 2014 through January 2015.” He continues that the report:

  • Recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate nine countries as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, for egregious religious freedom violations: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan;
  • Recommends that eight additional countries be designated as CPCs: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam;
  • Urges increased U.S. government attention to 10 countries placed on USCIRF’s Tier 2: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey; and
  • Highlights concerns in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, and Sri Lanka.

In the Annual Report, USCIRF urges that the United States “support a referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court to investigate ISIL (sic) violations in Iraq and Syria against religious and ethnic minorities” and “that the State Department designate Central African Republic as a CPC. In addition to country chapters, the report provides overarching recommendations for U.S. foreign policy as it relates to the promotion of religious freedom internationally.”

As the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees notes, “With nearly 900,000 people from the Central African Republic (CAR) forcibly displaced since the outbreak of violence in December 2013, the CAR crisis is quickly becoming the largest forgotten humanitarian crisis of our time. There are more than 460,000 CAR refugees in neighbouring (sic) countries and some 436,000 people are internally displaced. In the Central African Republic, a total of 2.7 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.”

FRC has been a strong advocate for the persecuted church worldwide. Under the leadership of FRC President Tony Perkins, we played a leading role in the release last year of imprisoned Christian Mariam Ibrahim, and have held several webcasts on international religious liberty.

To find out about Christian ministries working to protect persecuted Christians and also meet the profound needs of people in places like the CAR, go to the ServantMatch site of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (of which FRC is a member) or the Catholic Charities website.

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