ICC Calls for Religious Freedom at State Department Event
By Matias Perttula
10/01/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – July 2019 witnessed the largest human rights event in State Department history: the 2nd Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The week-long conference highlighted the horrors of persecution by hosting victims from different faith groups. The testimonies and speeches from high profile leaders and experts drove home the message of the Ministerial: religious freedom is a top priority in the United States’ foreign policy and the world is watching.
The Ministerial hosted delegations from over 100 countries. Speakers included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Vice President Mike Pence; Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was formerly imprisoned in Turkey; and the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair.
Numerous foreign delegations issued statements of concern regarding Myanmar, China, Iran, and other countries that engage in religious persecution. They are looking to the US for leadership in expanding these rights on a global scale.
Though the Ministerial offered dialogue on several areas for government action, some countries were not mentioned, the most prominent being India. India’s systemic persecution of Christians has been growing ever since the Modi administration and the BJP took power in 2014. BJP leadership continues to incite violence directed at Christians. Lynch mobs form quickly and attack Christians and almost always escape prosecution.
The Modi administration is moving India toward nationalism and fascism where Hinduism will reign supreme, while other faiths are demonized as foreign and threatening. In addition to participating in the Ministerial, ICC’s advocacy team hosted one of the most popular events of the week. The workshop event focused on real-world policy tools to hold known persecutors and human rights violators accountable, such as the Global Magnitsky Act.
At our event, we brought in State Department leaders on the Magnitsky Act to train other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on how to target human rights abusers overseas. These requests effectively ban the violators and their families from obtaining visas to the United States and its ally countries, in addition to other restrictions, and serve as effective deterrents against persecution.
Often, the mere notion that one might be considered for sanctions or visa bans is enough of a deterrent to stop government officials from persecuting Christians.
ICC also co-sponsored a reception on Capitol Hill for members of foreign delegations, members of Congress, and NGO leaders in Washington. The reception was well attended and witnessed several powerful speeches from leaders from various institutions like ICC and Alliance Defending Freedom, who are working together to prevent persecution.
ICC will continue to engage governments on issues of persecution. Our mission is to awaken authorities to the reality of what life without religious freedom truly looks like for Christians and other religious minorities. The brutality, discrimination, and oppression of Christians and other religious minorities must be brought to an end.
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