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ICC Note: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-R), looks at the troubling and increasing levels of restrictions on religious freedom in the Middle East. USCIRF’s 15th annual report released this year reaffirms the growing persecution of religious minorities worldwide. Particularly in the Middle East, widespread persecution is continuously targeted at Christians. Countries like Iran, Egypt, and Syria are systematically targeting and discriminating against their religious minorities. Christian pastors like Saeed Abedini are arrested, churches are raided, and Bibles are constantly confiscated. Christians in the West must continue to push for religious rights internationally for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

07/10/14 Middle East (National Review) – Earlier this year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 15th annual report on the status of religious freedom around the world. USCIRF’s report reaffirms what we’ve known for years: The plight of religious minorities around the world is troubling, and in many places — such as the Middle East — it is getting worse. Three weeks ago I held a congressional hearing to examine the situation of human rights in Iran and highlight the plight of religious minorities there, despite the false promises of moderation made by Hassan Rouhani.

The fact is that throughout the Middle East, and particularly in Iran, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria, there is widespread persecution of religious minorities, especially Christians. If we want to see a stable and secure Middle East, we must first ensure that the fundamental human rights of all people are being respected, and that includes the right to profess and practice one’s faith freely and openly without fear of persecution. If democracy is ever going to take hold in the region, then the rights of minority communities must be respected. Recent years have proven that elections alone do not make a democracy, and it is equally true that you cannot have a democracy without respect for human rights.

In Iran, one of the world’s worst violators of human rights, the regime systematically discriminates against and persecutes religious minorities. For example, more than 135 members of the Baha’i community — the largest non-Muslim minority in Iran — are currently imprisoned on sham charges, including seven of its leaders. This brutal regime also targets the Christian community — as we were sadly reminded last October, when four Iranian Christians were sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking sacramental wine during communion, and as we are reminded every day by the continued plight of Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen, who has been imprisoned for over a year for practicing his Christian faith.

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