An essential component of religious freedom is the right to worship in safety. Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Tony Perkins said, “Houses of worship and religious sites should be sanctuaries where worshipers feel free to practice their faith.”
Unfortunately, too many houses of worship worldwide continue to suffer violent attacks, often by terrorist organizations. Gayle Manchin, Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said ISIS has been responsible for vicious attacks in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria:
”In the worst such incident in Egypt in November 2017, an ISIS fighter bombed a mosque in North Sinai and then fired on the mostly Sufi Muslim worshipers as they fled the carnage, killing 311 and injuring over 120. In Nigeria, Boko Haram’s campaign of mass terror has similarly included countless attacks on churches and mosques.”
Another threat to houses of worship is vigilante mobs. In Pakistan in May 2018, a mob destroyed a hundred-year-old Ahmadiyya Mosque in the city of Sialkot in Punjab Province.
Sam Brownback, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, pointed out that state actors are also responsible for the destruction of houses of worship and study centers. The Chinese government’s persecution of Tibetan Buddhists is a case in point:
“The Chinese government has pushed thousands of monks and nuns out of their homes and bulldozed their monasteries. In 2017, the government evicted approximately 9000 monks and nuns from the Larung Gar Institute of Tibetan Buddhism and demolished an estimated 4000 residences there.”
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Commissioner Nadine Maenza said houses of worship hold important historical and social significance for religious communities. “The destruction of such sites and the loss of their associated spiritual significance often strikes the very heart of those who practice their faith or find religious meaning there.”
In an effort to address these challenges, President Trump announced that the U.S. “will dedicate an additional $25 million to protect religious freedom and religious sites and relics.” As Mr. Brownback noted, “We should have hope that we can help these communities, encourage their faith, and even help them rebuild.”