A Christian persecution watchdog group has launched an advocacy campaign to boost the impact of religious freedom on U.S. foreign policy.
Open Doors USA is rallying support for a new proposed bill, HR 1856, which would amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) to strengthen the promotion of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy and reauthorize the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for seven more years.
HR 1856, sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), proposes to move the Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom position directly under the Secretary of State, lending greater status to religious freedom in foreign policy. Currently, the Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom works under the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
“HR 1856, the International Religious Freedom Amendment of 2011 Act, is one of the most important bills for the promotion of international religious freedom to be introduced,” says Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Lindsay Vessey in a statement.
“It is critical that HR 1856 be passed before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s funding expires in September,” Vessey explains. “It is imperative that constituents let their elected officials know that religious freedom is important to them and that they campaign for religious freedom for all people of faith around the world.”
Open Doors, an international ministry that serves the persecuted church, says that the ongoing turmoil in Nigeria, the Middle East, northern Africa and Pakistan – including the burning of churches and killing of Christians – serves as evidence that this bill is important.
Stable, democratic governments in these countries are unlikely to ever succeed without religious freedom, the ministry stressed.
The bill, if passed, would also provide for religious freedom training for foreign service officers and require the study of U.S. Government Accountability Office reports on the effectiveness of programs to promote religious freedom. It would also strengthen the “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) designation process by requiring that the State Department act on designations.
“If this bill passes, it will offer a significant advancement in religious freedom worldwide,” says Open Doors USA President and CEO, Dr. Carl Moeller. “It is important to urge our U.S. Representatives to vote for this bill.”
Nearly 70 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which falls on religious minorities, according to a Pew Forum study.