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STATUS OF INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: AN ANALYSIS OF THE STATE DEPARTMENTS 2003 ANNUAL REPORT

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2004

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM,

NONPROLIFERATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS,
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS,

Washington, DC. The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 5:35 p.m., in Room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Elton Gallegly (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.

Mr. GALLEGLY. The House International Relations Committee, Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Human Rights, is holding an oversight hearing on the status of religious liberty around the world.

Religious freedom is a fundamental human right, yet in many countries we are seeing systemic repression and persecution of religious expression, either directly by governments, or with their acquiescence. The United States cannot afford to retreat one inch in our support of minorities or the rights of practice of one's religion, openly and without fear of reprisal.

One of the most important tools that our government has to promote religious liberty and international religious freedom is the International Religious Freedom Act which was enacted into law 5 years ago. Among its provisions, it calls for the promotion and protection of religious freedoms worldwide, establish the Office of International Religious Freedom and the Commission on International Religious Freedom, and calls for the President to take action addressing severe violations of religious freedom.

This hearing will explore the findings of the State Department's 2003 International Religious Freedom Report. First, I would like to commend Ambassador Hanford for the continued improvements he has made in the quality of this report. I found this report to be focused and an extremely useful guide for Members of Congress to assess both improvements and backsliding by countries on religious freedom. Most importantly, the report pulls no punches. It treats all nations objectively, and does not hold back in its criticism, even when reviewing the policies of our friends.

The report details the status of religious freedom in over 190 countries. Its findings assist in determining the designation of Countries of Particular Concern and potential presidential actions. Last year, Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Sudan were designated as CPC countries.

In the past year, we have witnessed some advances in the status of religious freedom. However, too many people across the globe are not able to practice their faith freely. In particular, there is concern, regarding Afghanistan, the eventual constitution in Iraq, the deteriorating situation in Vietnam, and continued severe representation in China, North Korea, and Burma. I look forward to the comments of our witnesses on these and other countries.

Although the International Religious Freedom Report is an excellent work product, I must also mention that the report was released almost 4 months late. I understand the tremendous demands placed on the State Department's Office of Religious Freedom. However, this report is important to Congress, to many nongovernmental organizations, and to those who have suffered from religious persecution and prejudice. It is important that it be issued in a timely manner.

It is my understanding that Congressman Sherman, our Ranking Member, will be here momentarily, and after Mr. Sherman arrives he will be making an opening statement. The opening statements of other Members

will be submitted for the record in their entirety. I would also like to mention the dedication on this issue which has been shown by two Subcommittee Members, my good friend from New Jersey, Chris Smith, and my good friend, Representative Joe Pitts.

[The prepared statement of Mr. Gallegly follows:) PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE ELTON GALLEGLY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN

CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, AND CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM, NONPROLIFERATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Today, the Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Human Rights is holding an oversight hearing on the state of religious liberty around the world.

Religious freedom is a fundamental human right. Yet, in many countries we are seeing systematic repression and persecution of religious expression either directly by governments or with their acquiescence. The United States cannot afford to retreat an inch in our support of minority faiths or the right to practice one's religion openly and without fear of reprisal.

One of the most important tools that our government has to promote religious liberty is the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), which was enacted into law five years ago. Among its provisions, IRFA calls for the promotion and protection of religious freedom worldwide, established the Office of International Religious Freedom and the Commission on International Religious Freedom, and calls for the President to take action addressing severe violators of religious freedom.

This hearing will explore the findings of the State Department's 2003 International Religious Freedom Report.

First, I would like to commend Ambassador Hanford for the continued improvements he has made in the quality of the Report. I found this Report to be focused and an extremely useful guide for members of Congress to assess both improvements and backsliding by countries on religious freedom. Most importantly, the Report pulls no punches. It treats all nations objectively and does not hold back in its criticism, even when reviewing the policies of our friends.

The Report details the status of religious freedom in over190 countries. Its findings assist in determining the designation of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) and potential Presidential actions. Last year Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Sudan were designated as CPC countries.

In the past year, we have witnessed some advances in the status of religious freedom. However, too many people across the globe are not able to practice their faith freely. In particular, there is concern regarding Afghanistan, the eventual constitution in Iraq, the deteriorating situation in Vietnam, and continued severe repression in China, North Korea and Burma. I look forward to the comments of our witnesses on these and other countries.

Although the International Religious Freedom Report is an excellent work product, I must also mention that the Report was released almost four months late. I understand the tremendous demands placed upon the State Department's Office of Religious Freedom. However, this Report is important to Congress, many non-governmental organizations and to those who have suffered from religious persecution and prejudice. It is important that it be issued in a timely manner.

It is my understanding that Congressman Sherman, the ranking member on the subcommittee, will be here momentarily. After Mr. Sherman arrives, he will be making an opening statement. The opening statement of other members will be submitted in their entirety for the record.

I would also like to mention the dedication on this issue which has been shown by two subcommittee members—Representative Chris Smith and Representative Joe Pitts. We will now hear from Ambassador Hanford.

Mr. GALLEGLY. At this time, since Mr. Sherman has not yet arrived, I will go to our first witness, Ambassador Hanford, and thank you very much for being here today, Ambassador.

STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JOHN V. HANFORD III, AM

BASSADOR-AT-LARGE FOR INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Ambassador HANFORD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee.

Let me begin by thanking you for holding this hearing on the 2003 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. I am proud to represent the Department of State and President Bush in this regard, and I am grateful to Congress for the indispensable role that many Members continue to play on this issue as partners and supporters and as very strong advocates in your own right.

At the outset I would like to use this occasion to pay tribute to two groups of people. The first group is those dedicated and tireless officers at the State Department who devoted so much effort to producing this report. From human rights officers at our Embassies and consulates, to my own staff in the International Religious Freedom Office, countless hours of toil, sweat, and perhaps even an occasional tear went into bringing the report before us today.

The second group whom we all work to pay tribute to is the countless religious believers around the world who continue to believe, pray, gather, worship, and live their faith in the face of serious restrictions or even severe persecution.

What for us may be somewhat of an abstraction in a report is for them a harsh, vivid, inescapable reality. From the house church Protestant, underground Catholic, Tibetan Buddhist, or Uighur Muslim in China, to the independent Buddhist, underground Protestant, or dissident Catholic in Vietnam, to the Bahai' in Iran, to an array of believers in Turkmenistan, to the Shi'ite, or any nonMuslim in Saudi Arabia, to the evangelical Protestant or Jehovah's Witness in Eritrea, many religious believers must choose between their personal welfare or follow the call of their faith.

This report seeks to reveal their plight to the world. This report is also for all of those worldwide who yearn for liberty, who know that religious liberty is inseparable from human dignity, who understand it includes many other freedoms, such as freedom of speech, assembly, conscience and association, and who appreciate

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