Vietnamese pastor released after 4 years imprisonment over religious freedom advocacy
On Sept. 18, USCIRF announced that A Dao, a pastor of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ, had been released from prison. Dao was arrested in 2016 while on his way to visit some members of his church after attending a conference on religious freedom in East Timor. USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr, who advocated for Dao’s release through USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, said he hopes the release is a “sign that the Vietnamese government is serious about improving religious freedom conditions and will release other individuals detained for their religious freedom advocacy.”
USCIRF Welcomes House Passage of Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomed the House of Representatives’ passage yesterday of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bars imports of all goods mined, produced, or manufactured in Xinjiang, unless proven by clear and convincing evidence that the goods were not produced using forced labor. “We want to thank Representative Jim McGovern and Senator Marco Rubio for their leadership on this important legislation in Congress, as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strong floor statement and all the Members of the House who supported it,” USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel stated. “USCIRF urges the Senate to pass the companion bill swiftly and the President to sign it.”
USCIRF Welcomes Release of Pastor A Dao in Vietnam
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today welcomed the release of A Dao, a pastor of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ. Vietnamese authorities had arrested him on August 18, 2016, after he returned to Vietnam from a conference about religious freedom in East Timor.
“I am delighted that Pastor A Dao is free, even as I lament the fact that prison robbed him of four years of his life,” USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr stated. “I hope this release is a sign that the Vietnamese government is serious about improving religious freedom conditions and will release other individuals detained for their religious freedom advocacy, including Nguyen Bac Truyen. In addition, USCIRF urges the government to take steps to ensure that local authorities respect A Dao’s freedom and safety should he choose to return to his home village.”
Christians Under Attack in Ethiopia and Nigeria
John Stonestsreet and Shane Morris discuss the murders of hundreds of Christians in Ethiopia--one of the most ancient of all Christian lands--at the hands of militant Muslim youth, as well as the growing awareness of genocide against Christians in Africa's largest nation, Nigeria.
Benjamin Watson, Tulsi Gabbard and Frank Wolf on the Slaughter of Christians in Nigeria
Especially in northern Nigeria, Christians are under a sustained, brutal assault by two groups bent on their destruction: The Islamist terror group Boko Haram and Fulani militants motivated by a mixture of Islamist ideology and greed for land. On any given day, Christians are killed, raped, and kidnapped. For example, just last week, over 20 Christians were killed and over 60 abducted.
USCIRF Welcomes Import Ban against Xinjiang Firms
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today welcomed the decision by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to issue five new Withhold Release Orders (WRO) due to concerns about forced labor and religious freedom violations in the region aimed towards Uyghur and other Muslims. “This is an important step to keep goods that are produced using forced labor out of American markets,” USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel stated. “Thanks to U.S. leadership, Chinese companies now know that they cannot profit off the slavery of Uyghur Muslims.”
‘Unbearable Screams’: Uighurs Accuse China of Crimes Against Humanity
“I didn’t see, but I could hear the unbearable screams coming from both sides of the corridor,” said Mamattursun Omer, a Uighur whose account of being detained in Xinjiang is one of many that NBC News reported are included in the International Criminal Court complaint. “They should be punished for the crime they have done to us,” he told NBC. “It is my responsibility to give my testimony.” The complaint specifically claims that China enforced birth control, carried out mass surveillance, and committed massacres on the Uighur population inside the Xinjiang region. Both the NBA and Disney have had significant business interests in China, but have yet to condemn the government for mistreatment of Uighurs.
Rising Antisemitism in Europe Amid the Pandemic
Wednesday, September 23, 2020 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM ET Virtual Event In recent years, Europe has experienced alarming levels of antisemitism and outright violence against Jewish communities. Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual event that will provide a timely overview of current antisemitic attitudes and incidents in Europe, including new trends since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion will also focus on recommendations for U.S. policy to counter antisemitism. USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin and Commissioner Gary Bauer will be joined by U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism David Peyman and Director of European Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Andrew Srulevitch for this discussion. This event will be moderated by USCIRF Director of Outreach and Policy Dwight Bashir and will include a Q&A for attendees.
USCIRF Releases New Policy Update Highlighting One Year of Progress Advancing Religious Freedom in Sudan
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report: Sudan Policy Update: The Sudanese transitional government has made a number of significant religious freedom reforms during the past year. This policy update examines religious freedom conditions in Sudan after the 2019 revolution and the formation of the civilian-led transitional government. It highlights the historic progress, along with the ongoing challenges, in advancing religious freedom. In addition, it discusses improving bilateral relations between the United States and Sudan since the revolution and highlights USCIRF’s recommendations to the U.S. government given these developments.
USCIRF Encourages Religious Freedom Progress on Vietnam National Day
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) congratulated the government of Vietnam on its National Day, and encouraged the government to take steps to improve religious freedom conditions in the country.
“USCIRF commends both national and local authorities for working together to begin to help Hmong Christians in Dam Rong District, who have been rendered effectively stateless because of religious discrimination. However, this is only a first step,” USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr stated. “We encourage the national government to work with authorities across the Central and Northern Highlands to assist other similarly situated groups. In addition, the Vietnamese government must address the religious discrimination that led to the displacement of these communities.”
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Hearing Religious Freedom in Russia and Central Asia
Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual hearing about the alarming state of religious freedom in the Russian Federation and Central Asia, and recommendations on how the United States should respond.
Russia and various Central Asian countries have undermined religious freedom since the late 1990s, when many former Soviet states adopted repressive religion laws that drew upon past precedent. Officials across the region strictly monitor and regulate religious practice, including placing surveillance cameras in places of worship and keeping official databases with detailed personal information of community members. Regional governments actively suppress religious minorities through the denial of legal registration and the use of vague and expansive extremism laws that effectively criminalize any speech or religious practice of which they disapprove. Russia’s exportation of repressive practices to neighboring Ukraine has been particularly egregious, and it has made mandatory religious regulation and vague extremism laws significant weapons in the subjugation of occupied Crimea.
Witnesses will provide analysis on the abuse of registration and extremism laws used to target individual rights of religious communities across this region, and offer policy recommendations to the United States government.
Ambassador Sam Brownback: Communist China Is ‘Biggest Enabler of Human Rights Abuses Around the World’
The Chinese Communist Party touts itself as a global leader. And it is a leader. It’s leading the world in persecution, says Sam Brownback, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. From forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners to forced sterilization of Uyghurs, the Chinese regime, in Ambassador Brownback’s words, has waged “War with Faith.” And it’s exporting its repressive model abroad, to the detriment of freedoms across the globe. But authoritarianism ultimately can’t defeat faith, Brownback says, in China or anywhere.
The Vatican should speak up on China’s repression in Hong Kong and beyond
Washington Post by George Weigel
The situation of religious believers in China has not improved in any measurable way in the two years since the protocol was signed, with the Chinese government and Communist Party continually encroaching on religious freedom — and even attempting to use the church for its ends. The Chinese regime’s efforts to “Sinicize” the religious communities it permits to exist have intensified, with Catholic and other churches now compelled to teach the thought of Xi Jinping. Church buildings continue to be stripped of external religious symbols. Catholic schools in Hong Kong have been “advised” to extol the virtues of the new national security law Beijing recently imposed on the city, in violation of its treaty commitments to civil liberties in Hong Kong. Even more gravely, a horrific persecution of more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs is being conducted in Xinjiang, using concentration camps, forced sterilizations and other terrors that reek of Nazi practice.
USCIRF Releases New Report about Conscientious Objection
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released a new legislation factsheet about conscientious objection, which is the right to refuse military service based on religious beliefs. The Conscientious Objection Legislation Factsheet explains the international human rights standards that govern conscientious objection.
Russian Evangelicals Fined for ‘Missionary Activity’ During Pandemic
In the first six months of 2020, more than 40 people have been punished for violating a Russian anti-missionary law, according to a new report from Forum 18, a religious liberty news service based in Norway. “It is broad and vaguely defined,” wrote Travis Wussow, of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in 2016. “Of course, limiting expression and freedom in a vague way is a tried-and-true tool of regimes to stifle speech beyond the language of the law by creating fear of punishment.”
The Enslavement and the Genocide of the Uighur People in China
Alcorn blog post by Stephanie Anderson
In addition to deporting and imprisoning people, the Chinese government has worked to drastically reduce Uighur birth rates through forced birth control and abortions. “The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show,” the AP reports.
USCIRF Urges Justice for the Rohingya People on Third Anniversary of Genocidal Campaign
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today marked the third anniversary of the Burmese military’s violent and brutal campaign against the Rohingya people that continues to this day. “Three years after the beginning of the genocidal campaign against the Rohingya people, the Burmese government has done almost nothing to hold the military accountable or make conditions safe for the Rohingya to return to their homes,” USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza stated. “Refugee camps are not a long-term solution for the Rohingya people. The United States and the international community must reinvigorate and catalyze efforts to permit the Rohingya to return to their home in Burma as full citizens.”
The Role of the United States in the Revitalization of the International Human Rights Project
Public Discourse by Michael Farris and Elyssa Koren
The recently released draft report of the Commission is grounded on the premise that the US has a rich national history of human rights protection that “should inform and elevate America’s conduct in the world.” It underscores that as human beings, each of us possesses unalienable human rights that are deemed such insofar as they are inherent to all persons. Astonishingly, this simple and critically needed message that fundamental rights are rooted in natural law exist has sparked outcry, even on the part of self-described defenders of human rights.
Trump Admin May Label China’s Treatment of Uighurs a ‘Genocide’: Report
The National Security Council, State Department, and the Department of Homeland Security are still weighing whether to use the term, Trump administration officials told Politico. The administration could designate China’s treatment of Uighurs as “crimes against humanity” or “ethnic cleansing” if there is not enough support for a formal designation of “genocide.”
USCIRF Conversation: An Update on Rohingya Refugees
August 25th marks the third anniversary of the Burmese military campaign in Rakhine State that resulted in mass atrocities and displaced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims. Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual event to discuss the current situation of Rohingya Muslims in Burma and in refugee camps in Bangladesh, as well as the pending international lawsuits against the Burmese government.
USCIRF Calls for Action on UN International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recognizes the United Nations’ second annual International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief ahead of August 22, the official remembrance date. “Commemorating the many victims of violence based on religion or belief is critical, but only the first step,” says USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin, “The international community must work together to achieve justice for the survivors of past abuses by holding perpetrators accountable, and demonstrating to governments that action must be taken to ‘never again’ tolerate genocide or other atrocities.”
Secretary Mike Pompeo’s Ringing Call to Secure Human Rights and Liberty
Daily Signal by Anthony Kim
Following the inaugural report by the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights, a recent Heritage Foundation paper made the case for economic freedom as the linchpin of indivisible human rights. When citizens are empowered economically, they gain the independence and means to demand and effectively preserve their civil and political rights through democratic action.
To that end, it is more important than ever to keep the vital linkage between human rights and economic freedom as a critical pillar of foreign policy. Working closely with like-minded and willing allies in efforts to defend individual freedom and civil society should be the central component of U.S. foreign policy toward Europe.
The Ongoing and Intensifying Persecution of Christians in India
More and more in India, it seems that preserving “communal peace” means “keeping Hindu fanatics from attacking and/or killing their non-Hindu neighbors.” According to a new report by the group Persecution Relief, “Hate crimes against Christians in India [rose] by an alarming 40.87 percent” in the first half of 2020, “even despite the nationwide [coronavirus] lockdown in place since March 25.”
According to the report, the “293 cases of persecution against Christians reported in the first six months of 2020 included five religious-motivated rapes and six religiously-motivated murders.” The vast majority of these hate crimes are committed by Hindu nationalists who wish to turn India into a Hindu state, and therefore oppose Christianity and Christian missionary work.
U.S. leaders tell USAID to protect U.S. funds from subsidizing pro-abortion activities
Sen. James Lankford
Today, 60 Members of Congress – led by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) – sent a bicameral letter to Acting USAID Administrator John Barsa, urging him to protect U.S. funds from subsidizing pro-abortion activities and lobbying by the United Nations. The letter thanks Administrator Barsa for the letter he sent on May 18, 2020 to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General asking the UN to “remove references to ‘sexual and reproductive health,’ and its derivatives from the Global Humanitarian Response Plan, and drop the provision of abortion as an essential component of the UN’s priorities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The letter praises this advocacy and urges additional action to enforce the Siljander Amendment, an annual appropriations rider that, since 1981, has prohibited the use of U.S. funds for abortion-related lobbying.
Joint Statement of the United States, the State of Israel, and the United Arab Emirates
President Donald J. Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates spoke today and agreed to the full normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region.
Iran Senior Sanctioned Officials Responsible for Egregious Religious Freedom Violations
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report: Iran Sanctions Factsheet – This factsheet highlights key senior Iranian officials who the United States Department of Treasury has sanctioned for their complicity in severe violations of religious freedom. Two successive administrations have utilized the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and several Iran-specific executive orders over the past 10 years to sanction individuals for these violations, which affect Iranians across many different faith communities. The factsheet provides background on several officials linked to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as two of the infamous “hanging judges” who are known for having imposed unjustly harsh sentences on Iranian citizens following peaceful protests in 2009.
USCIRF Releases New Report about Religious Prisoners in Turkmenistan’s Gulag
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report: Turkmenistan Policy Update - This update describes the brutal conditions that religious prisoners face in Turkmenistan, including detention or disappearance in the country’s vast prison system. Muslims, whom the government has vaguely or falsely accused of “Islamic extremism,” represent a disproportionately high number of those who disappeared or are serving harsh sentences. Additionally, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not technically banned in Turkmenistan, the government is conducting an ongoing crackdown on their conscientious objection to military service. USCIRF documents some of the known religious prisoners in Turkmenistan on its Freedom of Religion or Belief Victims List, although many more are believed to be held in secret. This report raises awareness about this inhumane prison system, details the cases of individuals imprisoned, and urges the U.S. Government to confront these gross violations of religious freedom and human dignity.
U.S. Bishops Condemn Attack Against Cathedral of Managua, Nicaragua
Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued the following statement:
“Alongside Pope Francis and my brother bishops throughout Latin America, I condemn the sacrilegious attack against the Cathedral of Managua that occurred on Friday, July 31. Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, archbishop of Managua, called the incendiary-bomb attack an ‘act of terrorism.’ The apparent target of the explosion—an historic crucifix crafted in the 17th century—has become a poignant image of the country’s suffering Church, which has sustained repeated rhetorical and physical attacks (three in the last three weeks) since attempting to mediate peace in 2018.
USCIRF Condemns Death Sentence for Yahaya Sharif-Aminu on Blasphemy Charges
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned the death sentence announced on August 10 of 22-year-old Nigerian singer Yahaya Sharif-Aminu for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a song he circulated on the messaging platform WhatsApp in March. “Blasphemy laws are inconsistent with universal human rights standards because they fail to respect recognized rights, including freedom of religion and expression,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Tony Perkins. “The Nigerian government must overturn Sharif-Aminu’s death sentence and repeal blasphemy laws still present in state-sponsored courts.”
USCIRF Applauds Global Magnitsky Sanctions Against Xinjiang Entity
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today applauded the U.S. Department of Treasury’s designation of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) under the Global Magnitsky Act for committing egregious religious freedom violations against Uyghur and other Muslims. “For years, we have advocated for sanctioning the XPCC. This announcement is a significant step even beyond the sanctions announced earlier this month against senior Communist Party officials,” USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel stated. “The XPCC is essentially a parallel government in Xinjiang and has been directly involved in implementing the surveillance, mass detention, and forced labor of Uyghurs.”
USCIRF Commends Release of Religious Prisoner of Conscience Hamid Bin Haydara and 5 Other Baha’is in Yemen
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commends the Houthi authorities’ release of Religious Prisoner of Conscience Hamid bin Haydara along with five other detained members of the Baha’i community in Yemen. Charges against members of the Baha’i community remain in place despite their release. “Hamid bin Haydara’s release has been long overdue; it is an important but insufficient step,” said USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore, who advocates for Mr. bin Haydara as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoner of Conscience Project. “The Houthis must drop all charges immediately and unconditionally against Mr. bin Haydara and all other Baha'is in Yemen.”