12/11/2019 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Non-governmental organizations, individuals, scholars, human rights advocates, and members of various faith groups have raised their voices in concert to demand that the U.S. Congress reauthorize the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). At a time when the persecution of various faith groups is on the rise across the globe, the mission of USCIRF has never been more needed.
I have had the opportunity to highlight the case of USCIRF on various occasions, but the ongoing debate regarding the reauthorization of this small commission (operating on a budget south of $5 million) has lasted long enough. It’s time for our lawmakers to end the debate and reauthorize USCIRF. A diverse community of organizations in Washington, D.C. recently penned a letter to urge Congress move forward on USCIRF in a spirit of bipartisanship to ensure the advancement religious freedom around the world. The letter highlights the Commission’s excellent work and its devotion and commitment to advancing religious freedom. Perhaps one of the most vital roles the Commission fills is supporting individuals around the world who are suffering for standing up for their beliefs, conscience, or religion. That support happens through advocacy and high-quality reporting.
Among its other accomplishments, the Commission has created a number of resources used by civil society to continue their work in fighting for prisoners of conscience, raising awareness and advocating for legal reform in oppressive countries. International religious freedom has, in recent years, increased in prominence and has become a significant foreign policy for the United States.
With the issue gaining so much prominence, the United States Congress would send the wrong message to the world by continuing to delay USCIRF’s reauthorization. While lots of noise has surrounded the process, USCIRF’s mandate should remain the same. The reality is that lives around the world depend on the Commission’s ongoing work and benefit from its ability to call out countries where religious minorities are suffering for their faiths. USCIRF needs to be reauthorized now.
Matias Perttula currently serves as the Advocacy Director for International Christian Concern where he leads the government relations efforts to mobilize the US government to address issues of persecution in countries where religious minorities are oppressed and the freedom of religion is in decline.