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USCIRF Statement on the 2nd Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom

July 26, 2019


USCIRF Statement on the 2nd Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON, DC — The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commends the Trump Administration, particularly Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Ambassador-at-Large Samuel D. Brownback, and the Office of International Religious Freedom, for convening more than 1,000 civil society representatives and government officials from over 100 countries for the 2nd Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom on July 16-18, 2019. 

By giving voice to victims of persecution and oppression, the Ministerial raised awareness of grave violations of religious freedom throughout the world and the urgent need for advocacy and action by governments that value this foundational human right,” said USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins.     

USCIRF welcomed the participation at the Ministerial of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, reflecting the strong bipartisan support in America for promoting international religious freedom,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Gayle Manchin.

Various country delegations co-signed nine Statements of Concern, including a Statement on Protecting Places of Worship, which was one of USCIRF’s key recommendations in its 2019 Annual Report.

Additional USCIRF recommendations that were adopted during this year’s Ministerial include:

  • The Treasury Department designated two Iraqi nationals who are leaders of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias for Global Magnitsky sanctions for targeting religious and ethnic minorities in northern Iraq.  These sanctions block them from accessing any assets they may own in the United States and bar U.S. citizens from doing business with them.
  • The State Department designated four Burmese military leaders as responsible for gross human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims, including extrajudicial killings within Burma’s Rakhine State.  This designation bans them and their immediate families from travelling to the United States.
  • Vice President Michael R. Pence called for the release of four religious prisoners of conscience, including two who are part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience (RPOC) Project: Raif Badawi, imprisoned on charges of blasphemy in Saudi Arabia, and Patriarch Abune Antonios, imprisoned in Eritrea for resisting government control of the Eritrean Orthodox Church. The Statement of Concern on Iran called for the release of another prisoner in USCIRF’s RPOC Project, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.

Appearing at the Ministerial were two former USCIRF Religious Prisoners of Conscience, whose releases USCIRF worked with the State Department to secure: Pastor Andrew Brunson, who had been held for over two years in Turkey; and Abdul Shakoor, who had been imprisoned in Pakistan for four years.

USCIRF continues to be encouraged by the Trump Administration’s commitment to promoting the right of all people to freedom of religion or belief.




The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Kellie Boyle at kboyle@uscirf.gov or +1-703-898-6554.