U.S. Advocates for Religious Minorities

by By VOA  2018-03-14 00:00:00

In late December of last year, the Trump Administration unveiled its National Security Strategy. One of the priority actions to be undertaken by the United States as part of this new plan is the advancement and protection of religious freedom and religious minorities around the globe.

Vice President Pence in his remarks at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians said, “Protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of the Trump administration. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback also said “religious freedom is the most important foreign topic today”, in his remarks at the United States Institute of Peace.

Sam Brownback, ambassador at large for international religious freedom. (File)Sam Brownback, ambassador at large for international religious freedom. (File)

If there is one common thread that connects repressive regimes the world over, it is their oppression of minority religious groups. Persecution, repression, and discrimination are a daily reality for members of religious minority communities in too many countries around the world. Believers and non-believers alike are targeted for violence; their human rights are limited or sometimes entirely restricted.

The United States' response to such violations and abuses of religious freedom is based on the 20-year-old International Religious Freedom Act, which introduced the promotion and protection of religious freedom as a foreign policy priority for the United States.

Over the past several years The State Department has provided strategic guidance to its embassies and consulates about how to consistently advocate for rights of members of minority communities and promote their equal treatment in society. Recognizing the importance of preserving cultural heritage, the State Department has developed a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution to train church and other leaders of minority faith communities on how to protect ancient places of cultural significance.

The Department has also worked with the Organization of American States to recruit countries in our hemisphere to join these efforts to combat persecution in other regions.

Nonetheless, there are an increasing number of actors who continue to attack members of religious minority groups and undermine religious diversity. In response, we must stay committed to emphasizing the universal importance of this fundamental freedom. We can achieve lasting results by building and protecting environments where everyone can enjoy freedom of religion or belief.

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