Pope Francis has expressed increasing concern for the suffering of many Christians and others who are persecuted around the world simply because of their faith. The brutality inflicted on religious minorities has reached staggering proportions, causing them to flee the violence in places like Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Myanmar (Burma) with little more than the clothes on their backs. Millions of Syrians and Iraqis are displaced internally and in surrounding countries, trying to survive in cramped quarters, uncertain of their future.
As a way to address this suffering, USCCB strongly supports passage of The Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2015, H.R. 1150, that updates the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) and provides more tools for the U.S. government to support the protection of religious minorities. This legislation’s provisions include:
- Specifying actions to be taken against countries, individuals and non-state actors (e.g. ISIS) with severe religious freedom violations;
- Increasing coordination within the U.S. government to advance international religious freedom (IRF) policies and raise the profile of IRF;
- Expanding foreign assistance and counter-terrorism efforts to incorporate IRF concerns;
- Reauthorizing the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) through 2021.
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs is expected to take up this important piece of legislation in early June and broad bipartisan cosponsorship is vital for building momentum for passage in the Committee.
Tell your Member of Congress how important it is to support quick passage of H.R. 1150.
The USCCB championed the 1998 IRFA that created the Office on International Religious Freedom in the Department of State and the USCIRF and over the years, advocated for other legislation in support of protecting religious minorities, including reauthorization of USCIRF.
The Catholic Church has long standing commitment to international religious freedom. In a June 2014 address, Pope Francis exhorted all to “recognize, guarantee, and protect religious freedom, which is a right intrinsically inherent in human nature, in man’s dignity as a free being, and is also an indicator of a healthy democracy and one of the main sources of the legitimacy of the State.”