State Department’s Latest International
Religious Freedom Report
Underscores Need for All-of-Government Strategy
August 15, 2017, Washington, D.C. (Religious Freedom Institute) — The Religious Freedom Institute welcomes the State Department’s 19th Annual Report on International Religious Freedom and applauds Secretary Tillerson and the Office of International Religious Freedom responsible for producing it.
President of the Religious Freedom Institute Thomas Farr stated: “The Secretary correctly observed that growing religious persecution not only poses a grave moral problem, but also implicates the national security of the United States. Advancing religious freedom can enhance stability and undermine the violent religious extremism that threatens us all. For these reasons, U.S. religious freedom policy should be part of a coherent, all-of-government national security strategy. The Senate should quickly confirm Governor Sam Brownback as the new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. We need someone of his stature and experience to develop and implement the religious freedom elements of such a strategy.”
The Annual Report, required by the International Religious Freedom Act that President Bill Clinton signed into law, is sobering and disturbing. It catalogs the growing crisis of religious persecution that is causing immense human suffering.
The report emphasizes that governments violently repress religious groups through blasphemy and apostasy laws, destruction and seizure of property, or imprisonment of religious leaders. The worst offenders include North Korea, Russia, Cuba, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Religious freedom should be central to our relations with these countries, and even with allies such as Turkey, where an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, remains in prison.
Increasingly the most violent persecution has come from terrorist groups. The most visible threat has been the proliferation of ISIS and affiliated groups across the Middle East – and increasingly into Southeast Asia, Africa, and even into Europe and North America.
“I am encouraged to see Secretary Tillerson reemphasize that ISIS is responsible for genocide against Yazidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims and that the Trump administration seeks to assist and protect them,” said Kent Hill, Executive Director of the Religious Freedom Institute.
“The U.S. must ensure that humanitarian assistance is in fact reaching these genocide survivors. Beyond that, we must help them rebuild their homelands and create the religious and ethnic pluralism that can forestall the return of violent religious extremism,” said Hill.
The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) works to secure religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. The RFI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C.
Media Contact: Jeremy P. Barker