On Religious Freedom Day, Smith Urges Prayer/Action on Behalf of Persecuted Believers Worldwide
“Religious freedom is a precious gift from the Founders that has shaped America’s history and can shape the global future, but only if this fundamental freedom is protected and advanced in every country and for every person," said Cong. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights. "Too many people are jailed, suffer, or die for their faith every year. In large parts of the world, this fundamental freedom is constantly and brutally under siege. We should continue to pray for persecuted religious believers and demand that the protection of religious freedom must be a central part of U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy,” said Smith.
“The world is experiencing a crisis of religious freedom that poses a direct challenge to U.S. interests in the Middle East, Central and East Asia, Russia, China and sub-Saharan Africa,” said Smith. “We ignore this crisis at our peril. The U.S. government must do more to stop religious-related violence, the daily persecution of Christians and so many other religious groups, and a growing and ugly resurgence of anti-Semitism. The world is crying out for solutions and the U.S. must be the unequivocal leader in advancing religious liberty worldwide.”
To improve U.S. diplomatic efforts to protect the right to religious freedom, Cong. Smith introduced Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act and continue to fight to protect vulnerable religious minorities in Iran and across the Middle East, China, Vietnam, Central Asia, and Africa.
Smith has promoted religious freedom and other human rights issues as chairman and co-chairman of the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the U.S. Commission on China.
The origins of Religious Freedom Day are rooted in the Virginia General Assembly's adoption of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786. One of the first American laws to protect religious liberty, it was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and guided through the Virginia legislature by James Madison. National Religious Freedom Day was first proclaimed by President George H.W. Bush and first commemorated on January 16, 1993.