02/24/2021 United States (International Christian Concern) – President Biden must prioritize religious freedom in his foreign policy agenda. His dismissive remarks on the ongoing Uyghur genocide, delivered during a town hall meeting earlier this month, did not communicate strong support for religious freedom, a fundamental human right. His remarks were met with criticism by many. To avoid being perceived as weak on advancing religious freedom, the president should clearly prioritize this issue as a part of first 100 days in office.
First, President Biden should appoint a proven champion on religious freedom as the new Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. The ambassador should have a strong background in advocating for religious freedom at a multi-faith level and possess strong ties to the global community of human rights NGOs. This community has an extensive on-the-ground presence in at-risk religious minority communities and will help to bring a fuller perspective to the issue space.
Second, President Biden should emphasize prisoners of conscience in bilateral meetings with foreign counterparts. As a part of all bilateral talks, US diplomats should dedicate a portion of the agenda to mentioning prisoners of conscience currently being held because of their religious convictions. Too often prisoners do not receive the international advocacy that they need at the governmental levels. US diplomats need to bring these issues up consistently.
Third, the Biden administration should fill the exciting vacancy in the National Security Council dedicated to International Religious Freedom issues. This advisory position is critical in informing the administration on pertinent matters that threaten this universal value around the world.
The sooner the administration makes these core items a priority, the more clearly the world will know that the United States cares for religious freedom and will continue to champion it for all oppressed religious minorities around the world.
ICC’s Advocacy Director, Matias Perttula said, “President Biden has a golden opportunity to build on the accomplishments of the past administration and to unify a polarized country behind a truly bipartisan issue that is the most defining element of the American experience–religious freedom. Now is the time to double down on religious freedom and champion this fundamental human right around the world.”
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