« ÎnapoiContinuați »
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
CLEMENT J. ZABLOCKI, Wisconsin, Chairman L. H. FOUNTAIN, North Carolina
WILLIAM S. BROOMFIELD, Michigan DANTE B. FASCELL, Florida
EDWARD J. DERWINSKI, Illinois
LARRY WINN, JR., Kansas
BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York GUS YATRON, Pennsylvania
ROBERT J. LAGOMARSINO, California STEPHEN J. SOLARZ, New York
WILLIAM F. GOODLING, Pennsylvania DON BONKER, Washington
JOEL PRITCHARD, Washington GERRY E. STUDDS, Massachusetts
MILLICENT FENWICK, New Jersey ANDY IRELAND, Florida
ROBERT K. DORNAN, California DAN MICA, Florida
JIM LEACH, Iowa MICHAEL D. BARNES, Maryland
ARLEN ERDAHL, Minnesota HOWARD WOLPE, Michigan
TOBY ROTH, Wisconsin GEO. W. CROCKETT, JR., Michigan
OLYMPIA J. SNOWE, Maine BOB SHAMANSKY, Ohio
JOHN LEBOUTILLIER, New York
HENRY J. HYDE, Mlinois
JOHN J. BRADY, Jr., Chief of Staff
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
DON BONKER, Washington, Chairman BENJAMIN S. ROSENTHAL, New York JIM LEACH, Iowa MICHAEL D. BARNES, Maryland
JOHN LEBOUTILLIER, New York SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut
JOEL PRITCHARD, Washington
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
Religious persecution, which this volume addresses, constitutes one of the most widespread and insidious human rights violations in the world today. Thousands of innocent people are the victims of this special kind of human rights violation based solely on their religious beliefs or personal faith.
The phenomenon of religious persecution is not limited to any particular political system nor to any one region of the world. Unfortunately, it occurs often and people are made to suffer because their convictions are antithetical to governmental authorities.
This volume is a compilation of nine hearings on religious persecution as a violation of human rights. It includes excellent and detailed testimony from nongovernmental organizations and the administration concerning the scope, definition, and history of religious persecution. It also includes numerous dramatic and tragic statements from groups and individuals who have been victims of religious persecution.
What emerges from the reports presented to us is that the free exercise of religion is limited, to varying degrees, in most parts of the world. Discrimination, imprisonment, torture, and death are too often the price paid for one's religious belief.
Religious freedom is a human rights issue. In testifying before the subcommittee, Dr. Ernest Gordon, president of Christian Rescue Effort for the Emancipation of Dissidents, said the real issue is:
The struggle to maintain the freedom of people everywhere to think for themselves, to witness to God and to obey Him, and to act morally according to the dictates of their conscience . .
Another witness testifying before the subcommittee, Reverend J. Bryan Hehir, director of the Office of International Justice and Peace, U.S. Catholic Conference, said:
To exercise the right of religious liberty, the person must also be guaranteed the right of freedom of conscience, freedom of association, and freedom of speech. Therefore, the relationship between religion, liberty, and other rights is a reciprocal relationship. You cannot exercise the right of religious liberty if other human rights are not guaranteed.
One thing is certain: religious persecution will never be checked unless someone takes the time to monitor and to expose what is going on and until governments are held accountable. If America is to remain faithful to its past and the values inherent in the documents that formed this great democracy, then we must stand for religious freedom and human rights in the many countries that still abuse their citizens' rights. Religious freedom is synonymous with the protection and promotion of human rights.
The grim problem of religious persecution is summed up in an Op-Ed piece entitled, “Religious Persecution Widespread,” which I wrote for the Scripps-Howard Wire Service. The article appeared in numerous newspapers around the country including the Seattle Times of December 29, 1982. My description of this serious human rights violation follows:
RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION WIDESPREAD During this holiday season, we tend to think of religious persecution in historical terms-Roman killings of Christians, the Inquisition, cruel religious wars, and more recently the Holocaust. But most people are not familiar with the equally wide spread but insidious religious persecution of today. In the contemporary world, thousands of innocent people are the victims of a special kind of human-rights violation based solely on their religious beliefs or personal faith.
This persecution is not limited to any particular political system or region of the world. It occurs daily, and people are made to suffer because their convictions are antithetical to government authorities.
In Iran, the Baha'i community has been singled out for extermination by the Islamic authorities solely because of its faith. Since the inception of the Baha'i faith 138 years ago in Iran, followers have been exposed to constant repression, with frequent outbreaks of violence and bloodshed. In the early days, over 20,000 Baha'is were killed. In post-revolutionary Iran, more than 100 Baha'is have been murdered for no other reason than teaching or practicing their religion. Fourteen members of its administrative body have disappeared. Eight members of the Baha'i National Assembly have been executed, as have six members of the local governing board in Tehran. Baha'i shrines and cemeteries have been desecrated, administrative centers seized, and savings confiscated. The barbaric attacks on these gentle people continue.
In Egypt the head of the Coptic Christians is under house arrest, and many of his followers continue to languish in jails. Their religion is suppressed by Egyptian authorities. Believers are harassed and discriminated against.
In Ethiopia, the Falasha Jews are persecuted relentlessly.
In South Africa, anti-apartheid religious believers, both black and white, are harassed, jailed or banned.
In the Philippines, the Moslem minority is subjected to government repression, and the Catholic clergy is intimidated and jailed.
In Taiwan, South Korea, China, Tibet and other countries, the Presbyterians and other Christians suffer harsh treatment because of their beliefs.
In the U.S.S.R. and other East European countries, both Christians and Jews are persecuted because their beliefs are contrary to the teachings of Karl Marx. Most of them are denied the right to immigrate to countries where their freedom of worship would be assured. Seven Pentecostals today languish in the basement of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow facing death or imprisonment should they dare to leave the compound.
In Albania and North Korea, officially atheistic states, religion of any kind is outlawed.
In many countries of Latin America, Jews, Catholic priests, nuns, and lay leaders, as well as those who work with Protestant mission groups, are tortured, jailed or assassinated for their witness on behalf of the poor, the silenced and the suffering. Even being a Catholic in a Catholic country provides no immunity. The tragic assassination of Archibishop Romero in El Salvador and the murders of many priests and nuns throughout the region illustrates the problem all too vividly.
The list goes on. The sad truth is that few countries in the world enjoy the religious freedom that is so treasured in the United States, a freedom rooted deep in the history and traditions of our country and sanctified by the Bill of Rights.
During the past session of the Congress, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations has been conducting a series of hearings on religious persecution as a violation of human rights. From all available evidence presented to the subcommittee, as the foregoing indicates, there can be no doubt that the free exercise of religion is limited in most parts of the world. Discrimination, imprisonment, torture and death are often the price that must be paid for one's religious belief.
In addition to the subcommittee's attempts to focus attention on this tragic international problem, the United Nations in November of 1981, after 20 years of effort, took a giant step forward by passing a statement on religious persecution. For the first time, the nations of the world agreed to make a declaration against all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief.
These persecutions will not stop because the U.N. has adopted a document. It is not a perfect instrument, but there is now a clear standard to be applied when public or private appeals are made to governments. The declaration provides that everyone should have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, or whatever the belief of his or her choice, and should not be subject to coercion that would impair individual freedom. It further provides that no person shall be subject to intolerance or discrimination by any state, institution, group or individual on religious grounds.
One thing is certain: Religious persecution never will be checked unless someone takes the time to monitor and expose what is going on and governments are held accountable.
It is unlikely that the United States can end religious persecution, but we can make the issue an integral part of our foreign policy. If America is to remain faithful to her past and the values inherent in those documents that formed this great democracy, then we must stand for religious freedom and human rights in the many countries that still abuse their citizens. Religious freedom is synonymous with the protection and promotion of human rights.
As governments deny their citizens basic fundamental freedoms and human rights, organized religion is often the last hope. Inevitably when it speaks out against injustice, organized religion becomes the victim of state repression.
The importance of religious freedom as a human right is seen clearly when parliaments are closed, political parties disbanded, trade unions outlawed, or the courts rendered useless. Churches, synagogues, mosques and pagodas often provide the last remaining place of refuge for people to stand together for justice.
I would urge all to read this volume which clearly indicates the issue of religious persecution. It demands our attention and that of all the members of the international community. We must speak out because of the needs of the victims. We must speak out because of our feeling of compassion, and we must speak out because it is our duty to send an unmistakable signal to the principal offenders that they will be checked and stopped. The Bible speaks plainly about this subject. Jesus said of the victims of persecution, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake ..."