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September 18, 2014

Testimony of Tad Stahnke on Meeting Current International Religious Freedom and National Security Challenges

Testimony of Tad Stahnke before the house committee on oversight and government reform subcommittee on national security: "Meeting Current International Religious Freedom and National Security Challenges", September 18, 2014.

Below is an excerpt:

Introduction

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for convening this hearing to examine the implementation of the International Religious Freedom Act, with an emphasis on some of the major national security challenges facing the United States that also constitute grave abuses of religious freedom and other human rights. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to share Human Rights First’s findings and recommendations and to discuss how to advance U.S. policy on international religious freedom in ways that are mutually beneficial to both the protection of security and rights.

Religious freedom is a cornerstone of secure and thriving societies. It reinforces the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. Religious freedom is a universally recognized and fundamental human right; but it is also a human security issue, and as such protecting it should be a key element of U.S. national security and counterterrorism, conflict prevention and mitigation and democracy promotion strategies.

One need look no further than the past year’s headlines to see the religious freedom/security connection. Recent events in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt underscore the urgency of formulating U.S. foreign and national security policies that promote and protect religious freedom and related human rights as part of the strategy to secure U.S. national interests. Many of these situations have deteriorated because of a failure of governments to adequately protect human rights and the rule of law and confront discrimination, hatred and extremism.

Religious freedom problems are not limited to the Middle East or to Muslim majority countries. Almost all major U.S. foreign policy challenges involve countries where religious freedom is denied, where religious conflict threatens to destabilize societies, or where the state-sponsored religion or ideology is used to suppress debate or governments use alienate the very populations that the government needs in order to eliminate terrorist threats.

The result is fear, displacement and massive human rights abuses carried out with impunity, in some cases endangering the very existence of religious communities in their historic homelands.

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