Friday, June 28, 2019

New US Government Report Released on International Religious Freedom - Ambassador Brownback explains - Video

On June 21, 2019 the United States  released its 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom. The annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom – the International Religious Freedom Report – describes the status of religious freedom in every country. The report covers government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world. The U.S. Department of State submits the reports in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

The Report Explained: Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback explained the 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom. He said, the fight against religious freedom is mounting. There was a report that 80 percent of people live in places where religious freedom is under attack, yet most of the world organizes their life around a set of religious beliefs. They must be free to do so. The Trump administration has done exactly what it promised to do about making religious freedom a top foreign policy priority, and it is. We’ve jumped off the sidelines to fight for people of all faiths.

This is because we believe there is no more important a time for the United States to promote religious freedom than now. We will not stop until we see the iron curtain of religious persecution come down; until governments no longer detain and torture people for simply being of a particular faith or associated with it; until people are no longer charged and prosecuted on specious charges of blasphemy; until the world no longer believes it can get away with persecuting anyone of any faith without consequences. We will not stop.
I lead an incredible office of people who relentlessly work to advance religious freedom around the globe. Today’s rollout of the 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom was made possible by them, and I’d like to specifically highlight Bob Boehme, who heads up our report team, as well as all of our editors and numerous State Department officers and personnel in embassies and consulates around the world who diligently prepared these comprehensive reports.
Every day of the past year and a half that I’ve been on this job, I’ve been grateful for this team and their commitment to this work. We’ve been working with foreign governments to help them organize their own conferences, to encourage a regional and context-specific look at religious freedom. We’ve increased our engagement with the NGO community, expanding a religious freedom roundtable on Capitol Hill which I co-host every Tuesday that I’m in town. We’ve supported religious freedom roundtables starting up in other countries around the world.
A grassroots movement for religious freedom is beginning to take hold around the world. We’re seeing the fruit of our labor. President Trump led a government-wide effort to secure the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson. Pakistan released Asia Bibi after their supreme court upheld her acquittal of blasphemy charges. And as Secretary Pompeo said, Uzbekistan, for the first time since 2006, is no longer a Country of Particular Concern.
But the religious freedom central to our experience at home is still encroached upon in many areas of the world, as our 2018 report shows. For example, Iran has one of the worst records on religious freedom in the world and continues to show a blatant disregard for protecting individuals’ religious freedom. Countless members of Iranian religious minorities, including Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Sunni and Sufi Muslims, face discrimination, harassment, and unjust imprisonment because of their beliefs. Their religious books are banned. They are denied access to education. Their cemeteries are desecrated. Blasphemy and proselytization of Muslims is punishable by death. Last year, the Iranian regime violently cracked down on the peaceful protest of Gonabadi Sufi dervishes in what Human Rights Watch called “one of the largest crackdowns against a religious minority in Iran in a decade.” To Iran we say we are watching and we will stand up for all those whose right to religious freedom is infringed upon.
China has declared war on faith. We’ve seen increasing Chinese Government abuse of believers of nearly all faiths and from all parts of the mainland. In Xinjiang, China has detained more than a million ethnic Muslims in camps that are designed to strip away the culture, identity, and faith of these religious communities. We share reports – again, that others make – that Chinese authorities have subjected prisoners of conscience, including Falun Gong, Uighurs, Tibetan Buddhists, and underground Christians, to forcible organ harvesting. This should shock everyone’s conscience. China also continues to interfere in Tibetan Buddhist practices and Tibetan culture, including by interfering in the selection, education, and veneration of Tibetan Buddhist lamas. They’ve increased their repression of Christians, shutting down churches and arresting adherents for their peaceful religious practices. And to this we say to China: Do not be mistaken, you will not win your war on faith. This will have consequences on your standing at home and around the world.
In Eritrea, authorities continue to confine Eritrean Orthodox Church Patriarch Antonios, who has been under house arrest since 2006. He along with hundreds of other prisoners of conscience should be free.
In Turkey, the government of President Erdogan continues to keep the Halki seminary closed. We call on them to let it be reopened.
And in Nicaragua, religious leaders report constant surveillance, intimidation, and threats. The national police assault priests in full daylight, revealing the government’s contempt for any religious leaders they view as a threat to their authority.
The United States cannot secure religious freedom alone. We need everyone’s help; everyone has a stake in the fight. That’s why this year’s second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom is more important than ever. We expect this year’s event to be bigger, broader, and better than last year’s groundbreaking event. The continuing and complex challenges to religious freedom demand an even greater stage with more stakeholders working together to identify solutions. The ministerial will also provide a platform to amplify the voices of survivors of religious persecution, these from around the world, whose stories will demonstrate the unrelenting power of faith.
Our work is still cut out for us. We must move religious freedom forward around the world. We look forward to working with other governments and our partners in civil society and the religious community to do just that.

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