A Santa Ana-based group pushing for religious freedom worldwide has launched a new advocacy campaign aimed at beefing up the International
Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and, with it, U.S. foreign policy.
Turmoil in Nigeria, the Middle East, Northern Africa and
Pakistan–including the burning of churches and killing of Christians–proves U.S. House Resolution 1856 is critically needed, according to Open Doors USA.
The bill would reauthorize the
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and allow the IRF office to
more effectively endorse religious freedom through advocacy, reporting and programming. The legislation would also add governments threatening religious freedom to the State Department list of “Countries of Particular Concern.”
All foreign service officers would receive
religious freedom training.
Under current law, Suzan Johnson Cook, ambassador-at-large for
International Religious Freedom, works under the
Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael
Posner. With HR 1856, Cook would report directly to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“If this bill passes, it will offer a significant advancement in
religious freedom worldwide,” says Carl
Moeller, Open Doors USA's president and CEO, in a statement from the group. “It is important to urge our U.S. representatives to vote for
Lindsay Vessey, Moeller's advocacy director, calls HR 1856 “one of the most important bills for the promotion of international
religious freedom to be introduced. It is critical that HR 1856 be passed before
the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom's funding expires
in September. It is imperative that constituents let their elected
officials know that religious freedom is important to them and that they
campaign for religious freedom for all people of faith around the
Vessey points out that nearly 70 percent of the world's 6.8 billion
people live in countries with high restrictions on religion. Stable, democratic
governments in these countries are unlikely to ever succeed without
religious freedom, Open Doors USA argues.
For more information about the campaign, go here.