2/5/2016 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – As the ASEAN summit is set to take place February 15-16, International Christian Concern (ICC) is greatly concerned that President Obama will neglect to raise religious persecution for the sake of prioritizing economic and international security with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), many of whom are gross violators of religious freedom.
Of the ASEAN members, five are either monitored or listed as countries of particular concern according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2015 annual report (USCIRF). International Christian Concern has reported religious persecution occurring in all but five of these nations.
The summit will be a gathering of dictators and tyrants as the Philippines and Indonesia will be the only nations represented by democratically elected leaders. Yet, even these nations practice religious persecution as radical Muslim groups attack Christian communities who receive little protection from their respective governments.
Even Indonesia’s democratically elected President Widodo has done little to restrain Muslim fundamentalists and their local government allies as they persecute the minority Christian population. Physical assaults, church closures, and arsons, as well as discrimination are common, especially in Aceh which has been given special privilege by the government to rule under Sharia law. Thein Sein, the Burmese strongman who oversaw the near extermination of ethnic Karen and Kachin Christians, will also be in attendance.
President of ICC, Jeff King, stated, “The United States holds a special position within the international community. Nations look to us for economic and geopolitical leadership and support, yet when we have an opportunity to show the world the United States will not tolerate tyrants and dictators, we welcome them to our shores with open arms for the sake of commerce. While the ASEAN summit exists to foster economic integration and is vital in the interest of the US to counter the rising threat of China, the proverbial elephant in the room of religious persecution must be addressed. President Obama has had unique opportunities in the past with other international dignitaries to speak on behalf of the persecuted. Some, he has chosen to have ‘frank’ discussions with (i.e. China), while with others he ignored the issue altogether (Saudi Arabia). As President Obama seeks to ensure his legacy, pressing tyrants to better the treatment of human beings will be remembered long after any important but transitory economic or geopolitical gains. We call on President Obama to make religious freedom and human rights a priority during the ASEAN summit and show that the United States is still the champion of freedom and democracy throughout the world.”
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