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Rubio Marks International Religious Freedom Day, Highlights Persecution of Christians in the Middle East

Oct 27, 2015 | Press Releases

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, issued the following statement marking International Religious Freedom Day:
“Today we commemorate International Religious Freedom Day, which marks the 17th anniversary of the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. This landmark legislation sought to infuse America’s first freedom into our foreign policy, and it has made great strides in doing so. One of the ways it did this was by establishing the bipartisan, independent, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which I was pleased to play a central role last month in reauthorizing for another four years.
“Beyond having the institutions to defend religious freedom, much remains to be done, as we see relentless assaults on religious freedom around the world. Today is a day to not only remember the foundational importance of international religious freedom, the birthright of every individual, but a time to renew America’s commitment to advocating for this most basic right whenever and wherever it comes under assault. We have a moral responsibility to stand firmly on the side of people who simply want to live and worship in peace.
“Nowhere has intolerance and evil combined to destroy people of faith more than it has in the Middle East, where ISIS is engaged in a systemic, genocidal effort to wipe out all religious minorities, including Christians and Yezidis. Just over a year ago, ISIS swept through the Nineveh Plains, uprooting thousands in a matter of days. Faced with the choice of beheading, enslavement or forced conversion, entire villages fled with nothing more than the clothes on their back. Their historic convents, monasteries and churches have been destroyed or seized and repurposed into prisons, weapons facilities, or torture chambers. For the first time in 2,000 years, there was no Christmas Mass in Mosul, and this exile is now stretching into a second winter. In Syria, the situation is no better.
“Until ISIS is defeated and destroyed, Christianity and other minority religions in the Middle East face an existential crisis. These persecuted minorities, despite being sustained by a steadfast faith, routinely express a pervasive sense of abandonment by the U.S. and our Western allies. These are the consequences of President Obama’s failed policies in Iraq and Syria – not only a failed military strategy but a failure to address the human consequences of this conflict.
“Protecting religious freedom around the world must be a top priority of our foreign policy agenda, because it is part of the fabric of the American experience and central to our national identity. Many of our ancestors sought refuge on our shores because of religious persecution abroad.
“On this International Religious Freedom Day, I encourage all who love freedom to speak out against these offenses and press the Obama Administration to pursue policies that reflect the urgency of the situation for persecuted, oppressed, marginalized, and endangered communities of faith globally.
“I also pray that every American finds time to spend with family and friends in prayer, devotion and reflection, mindful that we live in the freest country in human history and inspired to fulfill the responsibilities that come with that great blessing.”