Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, today commented on the release of the State Department’s Annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2014:
“Today’s release of the State Department’s 2014 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 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, religious populations are under attack. In recent weeks, Israeli Jews have been slaughtered in the streets of Jerusalem as they go about their daily activities. Elsewhere in the Middle East, ISIL is conducting a genocidal campaign against religious minorities, including Yezidis and Christians. Terrorist organizations like ISIL are trying to systematically extinguish the light of Christianity from much of the region as they force minority populations to choose to flee or face persecution or even death.
“There are also many 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. In Cuba, where the Ladies in White are beaten on their way to church, to Iran where an American pastor languishes in prison, to China where Christian churches are demolished and pictures of the Dalai Lama are banned, around the world religious freedom is being threatened.
“These attacks on religious freedom are both a moral and strategic national security concern for the United States. Sadly this issue has been met with little urgency or vision on the part of the Obama Administration - at precisely the time it’s most needed. Long vacancies in key positions, lack of resources and prioritization, and diminished standing within the State Department bureaucracy have hampered our ability to champion this fundamental freedom abroad.
“Additionally, the State Department does not utilize the tools it has to name and shame violators of religious freedom such as the designation of Country of Particular Concern (CPC). The administration should re-designate countries every year for their religious freedom violations. In particular, countries such as Pakistan, Syria and Vietnam should be considered for a CPC designation, as has been repeatedly recommended by the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
“Religious freedom must be a bedrock of American foreign policy. The stakes are too high for anything less. We need to redouble our efforts to serve as a beacon for religious freedom around the world and press countries to implement policies that protect religious expression and worship.”