Press Releases & Statements
3/13/18: USCIRF Strongly Condemns New Indictment Against Pastor Andrew Brunson, Including Possible Life Sentence
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns a new indictment issued by Turkish prosecutors this week charging Pastor Andrew Brunson with “leadership in a terrorist organization” and seeking a possible life sentence in his case. Pastor Brunson is an American citizen and the leader of a small Protestant Christian church in the city of Izmir, Turkey, where he has served for over 22 years. He was detained on October 7, 2016 and accused by Turkish officials of membership in an armed terrorist organization, though official charges have not yet been released to the public.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) mourns the sudden passing of Chinese human rights lawyer Dr. Li Baiguang, a devoted advocate for religious freedom who represented falsely accused Chinese pastors and others targeted for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is concerned by recent reports that roughly 100 members of Iranian religious minorities, who sought resettlement to the United States, have been denied asylum and could be returned to Iran where they may face discrimination and persecution.The refugees, most of whom are reported to be Assyrian or Armenian Christians, were seeking refuge in the United States under the Lautenberg Amendment. The Lautenberg Amendment, enacted in 1990, was expanded in 2004 to allow members of Iranian religious minorities, including Christians, Zoroastrians, Baha’is, and others, to apply for refugee status under a special category in recognition of their status as persecuted minorities.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was deeply saddened to learn of the death on Sunday of Ms. Asma Jahangir, a leading human rights defender in Pakistan and a former United Nations expert on freedom of religion or belief. “Ms. Jahangir was an outspoken critic of the Pakistani government’s misuse of blasphemy laws, particularly targeting Ahmadis and Christians,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark. “She did this despite great risk to her own personal safety. She will always be remembered as a fearless advocate for human rights both in Pakistan and around the globe.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns the death sentence handed down to Hamed bin Haydara by a Houthi court in Yemen. Mr. bin Haydara was targeted soley beause of his religious beliefs. USCIRF calls for his sentence to be lifted and for Mr. bin Haydara to be released and all charges dropped.
1/24/18: USCIRF Welcomes Confirmation of New Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
“The Senate’s confirmation of a new ambassador today could not have come soon enough,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark. “We are witnessing immense challenges to religious freedom around the globe. We need to utilize every resource available to confront these challenges, including the office of the ambassador-at-large. USCIRF looks forward to working with Ambassador Brownback in advancing the U.S. government’s promotion of international religious freedom.”
USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark described Monson as “the embodiment of a lifelong commitment to the church’s mission. He strongly believed in religious freedom and actively traveled the world....His passing is a great loss for the LDS Church and all people of good will.”
USCIRF welcomed the State Department’s naming of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs) for severe religious freedom violations. This group comprises nations that violate religious freedom in a “systematic, ongoing, egregious” manner and includes Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
“Global Magnitsky sanctions against individuals who have committed gross human rights abuses are an important new tool in the U.S. government’s human rights toolbox,” said USCIRF’s Chairman Daniel Mark. “USCIRF congratulates the White House, the State Department, and the Treasury Department for working together to implement this first set of sanctions. Other countries are passing similar acts, and the United States should continue to be a leader in the fight against human rights abusers.”
USCIRF’s Chairman Daniel Mark said that “failing to designate CPCs tells the violators of religious freedom around the world that the United States is looking away. The State Department should make such designations without delay.”