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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Obama: "Around the World, Freedom of Religion is Under Threat"
ICC Applauds President Obama's Remarks, Calls for Action
International Christian Concern
International Christian Concern (ICC) applauds remarks made by U.S. president Barack Obama on the topic of international religious freedom and religious persecution. In his remarks, made in a speech at the annual national prayer breakfast in Washington D.C. earlier today, the president pledged to elevate religious freedom as a part of U.S. foreign policy and addressed specific cases of religious persecution.
"Today, we profess the principles we know to be true...the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith if they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do this free from persecution and fear," said the president. He went on to add, "...promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy. And I'm proud that no nation on Earth does more to stand up for the freedom of religion around the world than the United States of America."
The remarks come at a time when religious minorities, including Christians, are facing unprecedented levels of violence and government restrictions around the world. According to a report published in January by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Christians face hostility and violence in 110 countries and hostility towards religion globally has reached the highest level recorded in the six years since the report began. In addition, persecution watchdog organizations reported last month that the number of Christian martyrs worldwide had doubled between 2012 and 2013.
The president's speech also comes little more than three months after America's top ambassador for international religious freedom, Suzanne Johnson Cook, unexpectedly resigned from her post at the State Department after 30 months on the job. President Obama has previously been criticized for leaving the position vacant for nearly a year- and-a-half after his first inauguration in 2009. The president apparently sought to allay these concerns in his speech today, saying, "I look forward to nominating our next ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom to help lead these efforts."
Towards the end of his remarks, the president also called for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini and missionary Kenneth Bae, both Christians and U.S. citizens imprisoned for more than a year in Iran and North Korea, respectively, as a result of work related to their faith. Members of the international religious freedom community, including International Christian Concern, have long pushed for the White House to publicly call for the release of these prisoners and to dramatically step up the nation's commitment to international religious freedom as a foreign policy priority.
Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, said, "It was very encouraging to hear the president's comments today on religious freedom and persecution, but words must be backed with action. I want to reiterate the call we made to President Obama on November 13 of last year to swiftly appoint a highly qualified ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom to fill the empty position at the State Department. I also welcome the president's commitment to work more closely with religious leaders and faith communities on issues of international religious freedom. Religious persecution is one of the greatest human rights issues of our time, and tragically one of the most overlooked. Every day thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children face violence and discrimination simply because of their religious beliefs. Any assistance the administration can offer in helping us to relieve their suffering is welcome."
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