Rep. Smith Welcomes Religious Freedom Report, Laments Ongoing Persecution
Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and author of the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (P.L. 114-381), today released the following statement in response to the April 28 launch of the 21st annual report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on the state of religious liberty around the world:
“I commend USCIRF for taking on the worst violators of religious freedom around the world, and for issuing a hard-hitting annual report. In particular, I welcome their recommendation that the State Department designate five additional nations as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) due to their systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom–including India, Nigeria and Vietnam–and I urge Secretary Mike Pompeo to follow USCIRF’s lead by adding them to the State Department’s list of CPCs.
“I am particularly concerned at the deteriorating situation in Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari, who has failed to protect all Nigerian citizens equally. Indeed, the Buhari Administration’s response to repeated attacks upon Christian farmers in the Middle Belt by Fulani herdsmen ranges from indifference to active acquiescence. The herdsmen–and it seems, people at the highest levels of the Buhari Administration–appear driven by ethnic and religious supremacism.
“I thus reiterate the call I previously made for the State Department to monitor the words and actions of Miyetti Allah, an organization which represents the Fulani herdsmen. I also call upon Fulani leaders–including President Buhari and the Sultan of Sokoto–to unequivocally use their authority to stop these attacks.
“If anything, the USCIRF report–which focuses on the atrocities committed by Boko Haram, as well as government repression of Shia Muslims–should have focused more attention to acts of terror carried out by Fulani herdsmen.
“USCIRF rightfully calls out the increasing intolerance towards religious minorities–especially Muslims–in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP government. By turning its back on its secular constitution, India is starting to mirror Pakistan, which routinely discriminates against Hindus, Christians and Ahmadi Muslims, who are deemed heretical.
“I further note with cautious optimism that USCIRF has flagged a number of nations where religious freedom is improving, and I pray that the trend in countries such as Sudan, Uzbekistan and the Central African Republic continues. However, while two steps forward and one step back is better than one step forward and two steps back, the backwards steps still need to be addressed.
“Thus, while we can rightfully cheer the progress Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is trying to achieve in Sudan, so long as serial human rights abusers such as Hemeti and al Burhan–the Butchers of Darfur–remain in perches of power and influence, we need to be vigilant as to any backsliding.
“The behavior of the Xi Jinping’s China is extremely disturbing because it marries up ruthless, systematic persecution of religious minorities–Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners, Uyghur Muslims, underground Christians–with high-tech efficiency. USCIRF also notes that China is exporting its surveillance technology–and its malign influence–to other countries.
“The issuance of the USCIRF report is an occasion for all of us to reflect on the innate dignity of the individual. All governments–including our own–must recognize the primacy of what George Washington named ‘the little spark of celestial fire called conscience,’ and preserve and protect religious liberty.”