Fighting for Florida

This week’s release of the State Department’s 2012 International Religious Freedom Report reminds us how blessed Americans are to live in a place where we can freely and openly practice our religion of choice without fear of persecution.  It’s a fundamental human right that many of our ancestors did not have before they came to America.  With this great blessing comes great responsibility to help ensure that others around the world can freely exercise their religious freedom as well.

Unfortunately, in the 21st century, there are governments that are complicit in religious repression by enforcing oppressive laws against religious minorities or standing idly by while minorities are persecuted by their fellow citizens for their beliefs.  The State Department’s report highlights Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) that commit particularly severe violations of religious freedom.  The CPCs that were last designated in August 2011 include: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. In Cuba, the report highlights that the Communist Party continues to control and monitor the religious life of most Cubans. I would encourage the State Department to consider including Cuba as a Country of Particular Concern in the next round of designations.

In particular, I am concerned that the United States is not paying enough attention to the growing persecution of Christians in the Middle East.  In countries, such as Syria and Iraq, the Syriac Christian community is under attack, with the entire existence of this ancient community at stake.  In Egypt, the Copts have faced undue pressure and violence that the Morsi government has done little to prevent or punish.  Although the report discusses incidents of persecution in these countries, it fails to recognize the trend of an increase of intolerance towards Christian minorities in this important region.

I agree with Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement that an attack on religious freedom is “both a moral and strategic national security concern for the United States.”  That is why we need to redouble our efforts to serve as a beacon for religious freedom around the world by encouraging countries to implement policies that protect religious expression and worship. I look forward to the day when we will no longer have to produce this report and encourage the administration to make this goal a reality.