BALTIMORE – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement regarding the State Department’s release of the International Religious Freedom Report for 2016:
“In too many places around the world, governments are implementing legal restrictions on religious communities, or failing to protect religious minorities. Based on the annual International Religious Freedom Report from the State Department, I am deeply concerned that many governments continue to detain, imprison, torture, and even kill people for their religious beliefs. The report chronicles the depth and breadth of the violations, including slaughter of innocent civilians, wholesale destruction of places of worship, and attempted genocide.
“Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jews and other religious minorities continue to face government directed or sanctioned harassment and violence. In China, the government enforces severe restrictions on the religious practices of Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists. In Iran, the government continues to engage in egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture and executions based on the religion of the accused. In Russia, sweeping anti-extremism laws have been used to crack down not just on civil society activists and dissidents, but on religious minorities.
“We must press the international community – governments and citizens alike – to speak out against religious persecution and to stand without equivocation for the freedom of religious belief. The failure of governments to protect this essential human right saps the vitality of their societies and breeds resentment, instability, and violence.”