US Commission urges Trump administration to prioritise international religious freedom

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U.S. | POLITICS

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom presented their 2017 annual report at a briefing in Washington DC on 17 May
US Commission urges Trump administration to prioritise international religious freedom

05/19/2017

An influential US government commission that monitors religious freedom around the world is urging President Donald Trump and his new administration to take concrete steps to make advocacy of universal religious rights a priority in American foreign policy, Christian Telegraph reports according to World Watch Monitor.

“Our foreign policy should not simply be about US self-interest – you know, national security and trade. It should also be about the ideals and values for which this country is known,” said Rev. Thomas Reese, chair of the US Commission on International Freedom (USCIRF). The Jesuit priest added, “We also believe that promoting religious freedom around the world is in our national self-interest.”

Commission Vice-chair Daniel Mark, a professor of political science at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, called on Trump administration officials to ensure that international religious freedom “never be overlooked or relegated to second-tier status” in US diplomatic engagements. “All people have the right to freedom of religion or belief – all people, in all places, at all times, to believe or not believe,” he said.

The officials made their remarks during a briefing in Washington DC on Wednesday (17 May) to discuss USCIRF’s 2017 annual report, which documented violations of religious freedom in more than 35 nations during 2016. The annual assessment detailed a “worsening” situation for the exercise of belief in many parts of the world.

“The blatant assaults have become so frightening – attempted genocide, the slaughter of innocents, and wholesale destruction of places of worship – that less egregious abuses go unnoticed or at least unappreciated,” the report asserted, adding that “many observers have become numb to violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.”

Founded in 1998, USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan commission of the federal government that monitors the right to freedom of religion and belief abroad. Its commissioners are appointed by the president and members of Congress from both political parties. USCIRF has no legislative powers, but assesses American policy and makes country-specific recommendations.

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