Monsoon season is currently wreaking havoc on the more than 911,000 Rohingya refugees displaced from their homeland in Burma to the ramshackle camps of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Two years ago, in August 2017, a brutal military crackdown pushed more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities from Burma’s Rakhine State to flee for safety. The Burmese military has shamefully denied and tried to hide its barbarism, which includes arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, displacement, rape, torture and arbitrary killings. And, Burma’s government has repudiated the international community’s attempts to document the crimes committed under international law, all while denying Rohingya basic rights like freedom of movement, access to health care and basic necessities, and citizenship.
In a country where as many as 2 million Uighurs and other Muslims are imprisoned in concentration camps, tortured and forced by Chinese officials to renounce their faith, one man’s reported crimes of religious persecution may stand above all others — Chen Quanguo.
2/8/19: Op-Ed: Indonesia Should Prevent Religious Conflict, but Its Blasphemy Law Does More Harm Than Good
Recently, Grace Natalie, head and founder of the young and progressive Indonesian Solidarity Party, gave a speech at a party gathering in which she criticized laws prohibiting “immoral acts” like gambling and drinking.
It has been more than a year since Burmese authorities began a brutal campaign terrorizing, sexually assaulting, and killing mainly Rohingya Muslims, leaving burned villages and corpses in their wake; more than a year since more than 700,000 fled across the border to Bangladesh. Despised for being both ethnically and religiously different, Rohingya Muslims are considered by Burma's military and many of the majority Buddhist population as outsiders illegally residing in the country with the goal of spreading Islam across the land.
The Houthi regime in Yemen claims that Baha’is are waging a “Satanic war” against Muslim Yemenis. The escalation of hateful rhetoric conjures up frightening memories of what Baha’is in Iran faced immediately after the 1979 revolution.
To the surprise of many, there is a foreign policy issue on which the White House and Democrats and Republicans in Congress have agreed for over two decades: the global promotion and protection of religious freedom, defined as the fundamental human right to believe in and be guided by any faith, or none.
For two hours the pastor sat straight, serenely listening to people claiming to be members of his church, saying he provided Bibles in Kurdish and kept a map of Kurdistan. None of the judges asked to see evidence, and none was presented. At noon, a judge asked Mr. Brunson to speak. He replied in Turkish: “My faith teaches me to forgive. I forgive those who testified against me.”
The international community and the U.S. government must put unrelenting pressure on whoever wins Wednesday’s election to immediately stop the harassment of the country’s religious minorities.
More than ever, USCIRF believes that the United States should take a stand for the religious minorities that Russia is oppressing in Russia, as well as in Crimea and the Russian-occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk. The commissioners strongly recommend that Russia be designated a Country of Particular Concern for its severe religious freedom violations, and that appropriate sanctions be imposed against the Russian Federation, including under the Magnitsky Act and the new provisions available in the Global Magnitsky Act.
"For most pastors, the beginning of a new year is filled with the promise of youth programs, baptisms, and marriages. Instead, Pastor Andrew Brunson — Presbyterian cleric in Turkey, American citizen, and pawn in an international game of hostage diplomacy — is spending it in a Turkish jail."