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Senator Lankford Recognizes International Religious Freedom Day

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) issued the following statement to recognize International Religious Freedom Day on Sunday, October 27, 2019:

“This year marks the 21st anniversary of signing the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Act of 1998. On this day, we remember and pray for those who are oppressed for their faith around the globe. With more than 80 percent of the world’s population living where religious freedom is threatened or denied, the United States must remain an active voice to both condemn religious persecution and to stand for the religious freedom of all people. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2019 report shows that numerous countries, including Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan, and Vietnam continue to imprison, torture, and persecute a range of religious groups including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Yazidis, Baha’is, Ahmadis, and Buddhists. As a nation, we must continue to take action against the persecution of people simply because of their faith.

“Over 20 years ago, enactment of the IRF Act was an important step forward to advance religious freedom through establishment of the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department, the position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Since then, we have also created the positions of Special Advisor for Religious Minorities and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

“We have also updated the IRF Act itself in 2016 through the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, to promote integration of international religious freedom into the foreign policy of the US and provide for mandatory religious freedom training of foreign service officers.

“As a nation, we have hosted victims of religious persecution from around the world during the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom so their stories can finally be heard. We worked to secure the release of individuals like Dr. Andrew Brunson who was imprisoned in Turkey for two years. 

“While we have taken these important steps, there is much more to be done, and we should capitalize on every opportunity to engage. That’s why I introduced a Trade Promotion Authority amendment in 2015 to require the Administration to take religious freedom into account whenever negotiating trade agreements. As we continue to negotiate a trade agreement with China, we should advocate for the one million Uyghurs and religious minorities detained in China at re-education camps, and advocate for the release of individuals like Pastor Cao. As we continue to partner economically with countries like India, we should also address the continued decline of religious freedom in their country.”

Last year Lankford joined a bipartisan group of Senators to condemn the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of religious minorities and actions to limit the free expression and practice of faith in the People’s Republic of China. In 2015, Lankford successfully secured a Trade Promotion Authority amendment that promotes international religious freedom in our trade negotiations with nations like China.