Citing violent religious conflicts in Iraq, Syria and parts of Africa, Catholic leaders have thrown their weight behind a U.S. House bill designed to significantly strengthen U.S. government efforts to promote international religious freedom.
“The increase in violence perpetrated against religious minorities has reached staggering proportions,” Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces wrote in a letter urging lawmakers to back H.R. 1150.
Among the bill’s provisions is one that allows for sanctions and other presidential actions to punish egregious religious freedom abuses, not just by governments but also by “non-state actors” – a category that would apply to such groups as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Boko Haram in Nigeria and Somalia’s al-Shabaab.
In doing so, the legislation would provide for the “country of particular concern” (CPC) designation – created under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) – to be broadened to cover non-state actors.
Another provision is a requirement that the State Department maintain publicly available, updated lists of people forced to renounce their faith; or imprisoned, detained, placed under house arrest or tortured for religious reasons – either by governments or by non-state groups.
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