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WASHINGTON—Congress and the Administration must take more steps to protect religious freedom around the world, said a member of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace. In a November 17 testimony to the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of La Cruces, New Mexico, named countries where religious freedom is threatened and called for the U.S. government to act.
“Religious freedom is not solely freedom from coercion in matters of personal faith; it is also freedom to practice the faith individually and communally, in private and public,” said Bishop Ramirez. “Freedom of religion extends beyond freedom of worship. It includes the freedom of the Church and religious organizations to provide education, health and other social services, as well as to allow religiously-motivated individuals and communities to participate in public policy debates and thus contribute to the common good.”
Bishop Ramirez cited policies in China, the New Year’s Day bombing of a Coptic church in Egypt, the Christmas Eve bombings of churches in Nigeria and the October 2010 attack on a Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad as just a few examples of religious freedom under attack. He noted that there is persecution of Christians in Eritrea, Baha’is in Iran, Ahmaddis in Indonesia, and Christians and Muslims in Uzbekistan.
He outlined the U.S. bishops’ experience on the issue, including meetings between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Pakistani minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated in March, and the October pastoral visit of two U.S. bishops to Catholic communities in Baghdad.
Bishop Ramirez recommended that Congress and the Administration place a higher priority on religious freedom. He called on the Senate to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and on the State Department to consider designating additional “Countries of Particular Concern,” including Pakistan. He also asked the President and Secretary of State to review actions that can be taken to pressure states where particularly severe violations of religious freedom occur.
The full testimony is available at: www.usccb.org/about/international-justice-and-peace/upload/2011-11_USCCB_Religious_Freedom_Testimony.pdf
Keywords: religious freedom, liberty, International Justice and Peace, USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, House of Representatives, U.S. Congress, testimony, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, China, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, State Department
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