DearColleague.us

Letter

From: The Honorable Trent Franks
Sent By: lena.smith@mail.house.gov
Date: 5/15/2015

Dear Colleague,
We are writing to invite you to join the International Religious Freedom Caucus. The religious dimension of conflict is something we cannot afford to ignore. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population lives in countries that severely restrict this freedom and the situation grows worse each year. As co-chairs of the Caucus, we are committed to upholding and defending the fundamental human right to religious freedom. We hope you will join us.
The Caucus was established in 2006 to ensure that this freedom, which was so foundational to America’s own democratic history, remains a priority in U.S. foreign policy, international development, and refugee law. With nearly 60 members, the Caucus demonstrates broad bipartisan and multi-faith support as it highlights ways to ensure greater respect for freedom of religious belief throughout the world. In doing so, the Caucus utilizes international standards as a basis for defining an individual’s right to freedom of religious belief, including Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Widespread and egregious violence against religious minorities at the hands of ISIS is just one example of the pervasive attacks against religious freedom around the world. Radical ideologies and religious intolerance are manifested in violent attacks, oppressive laws, restriction of movement, and other discriminatory acts against people of different faiths – or no faith – worldwide.
The Caucus recognizes that all other human rights can be negatively impacted when religious freedom is restricted. Countries that actively ensure the freedom of religion benefit from greater political stability, economic prosperity, social harmony, and, in turn, create greater international peace. Indeed, religious freedom is the manifestation of all the other rights operating in concert with one another.
The Caucus has served as an important vehicle for the coordination of religious freedom advocacy in Congress, enabling Members to engage on this important issue. Over the coming months, we will continue to host congressional briefings, raise individual cases of religious persecution, coordinate member of Congress sign-on letters to the U.S. Department of State, and discuss strategies for influencing greater respect for religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy.
In the past, the Caucus has held several public hearings and briefings on the religious freedom situation in countries such as Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burma, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, North Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey, and Vietnam. In addition, the Caucus has raised dozens of specific cases of persecution in urgent need of attention with foreign governments. Most recently, the Caucus coordinated efforts to secure the release of individuals imprisoned for their faith or human rights activities, including Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan, Sayed Mossa in Afghanistan and Kareem Abdul Soleiman Amer in Egypt, the safety and asylum of persecuted individuals, and the defeat of the “defamation of religions” resolution at the United Nations.
As Co-Chairs of the International Religious Freedom Caucus, we sincerely hope you will join us to protect this foundational human right.
For more information or to join the Caucus, please contact Lena Smith in Congressman Trent Franks’ office at 202.225.4576 or lena.smith@mail.house.gov or Aaron Allen in Congressman Juan Vargas’ office at 202.225.8045 or aaron.allen@mail.house.gov.
Sincerely,

TRENT FRANKS JUAN VARGAS
IRF Caucus Co-Chair IRF Caucus Co-Chair