At the release of the U.S. State Department’s 2019 International Religious Freedom Report, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted positive developments regarding religious liberty in a number of countries, including Uzbekistan, The Gambia, and the United Arab Emirates. “But,” he said, “there’s also a great darkness over part of the world where people of faith are persecuted or denied the right to worship.”
U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback declared that one place where people are “suffering greatly on account of their faith” is China.
In a recent interview he said that Chinese leaders are “doubling down on their war on faith.”
“It’s against everybody. It’s against the Muslim Uighurs. It’s the Tibetan Buddhists. It’s against the Falun Gong. It’s the Christian house churches. It’s everybody.”
Ambassador Brownback deplored the fact that China is also now using and exporting sophisticated technical systems of control:
“It’s not just imprisoning people now. It’s these virtual police states with lots of cameras and artificial intelligence systems and monitoring people who go into mosques or churches. And so it’s this high tech oppression that’s starting to take root.”
Another regime that stands out for its violations of religious freedom is Iran, said Ambassador Brownback. One example is the persecution of Christian convert Mary Fatemeh Mohammadi, who was reportedly first arrested and imprisoned in 2017 and has been repeatedly harassed by Iranian authorities since then. Ambassador Brownback said her case is not an isolated one:
“It’s not just Christians in Iran. You can be the wrong brand of Islam. You can be Baha’i – they get really rough treatment in Iran. But the Christians, and particularly Christian converts from Islam, just get a heavy level of persecution. . .We condemn all of it. And we really believe that if the Iranian government was looking after their own people, they would stand by religious freedom and say this is a personal choice.”
Ambassador Brownback also deplored the recent shocking “honor killing” in Iran of 14-year old Romina Ashrafi at the hands of her father. He condemned such killings as “abhorrent,” offensive to human dignity, and inimical to any true idea of faith and family.
Religious liberty is a “foundational” human right, said Ambassador Brownback. The United States will continue “to fight for people of all faiths, everywhere, at all times.”