(Senate - May 11, 2017)

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[Pages S2920-S2921]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                         SUBMITTED RESOLUTIONS



  Mr. LANKFORD (for himself, Mr. Coons, and Mr. Rubio) submitted the 
following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign 

                              S. Res. 162

       Whereas the United States Congress has a proud history of 
     promoting internationally recognized human rights;
       Whereas religious freedom is a fundamental human right of 
     all people;
       Whereas the free exercise of religion must stand for the 
     right to practice any faith or to choose no faith at all;
       Whereas every individual's rights to freedom of thought, 
     conscience, and religion is guaranteed under the United 
     Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted at 
     Paris December 10, 1948, and the International Covenant on 
     Civil and Political Rights, adopted at New York December 16, 
     1966, which recognize, ``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.'';
       Whereas, during his 1941 State of the Union address, 
     President Franklin D. Roosevelt noted the ``Four Freedoms'' 
     that the world should be founded upon, including the 
     ``freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--
     everywhere in the world'';
       Whereas, according to the United States Commission on 
     International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), abuses committed by 
     governments and non-state actors has increased and the 
     incarceration of prisoners of conscience remains widespread;
       Whereas, according to the latest Pew Research Center's 
     Study of Global Restrictions on Religion, which surveyed 
     2015, an estimated 79 percent of the world's population lives 
     in countries where freedom of religion and conscience is 
     highly restricted, either by the government or social groups;
       Whereas the 2017 report produced by USCIRF recommended that 
     the Department of State designate the following countries as 
     Countries of Particular Concern: Burma, Central African 
     Republic, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, 
     Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, 
     Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam;
       Whereas, in the same report, USCIRF categorized as Tier 2 
     violators, meaning violations engaged in or tolerated by the 
     government are serious and characterized by at least one of 
     the elements of the `systematic, ongoing, and egregious' 
     Country of Particular Concern standard, Afghanistan, 
     Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, 
     Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey;
       Whereas USCIRF also recommended that the Department of 
     State designate the following non-state actors as entities of 
     particular concern: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria 
     (ISIS), the Taliban in Afghanistan, and al-Shabaab in 
       Whereas, according to the Pew Research Center Study, the 
     two geographic regions with the highest government 
     restrictions continue to be the Middle East-North Africa and 
     the Asia-Pacific;
       Whereas Congress has recognized that Christians, Yezidis, 
     Shi'a, Turkmen, Shabak, Sabean-Mandeans, Kaka'i, and other 
     religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria have faced 
     genocide and other crimes against humanity perpetrated by the 
     Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and that ISIL 
     seeks to eradicate the communities of these minorities;
       Whereas Egyptian Coptic Christians have been repeatedly 
     targeted and their aggressors have gone unprosecuted, 
     including two suicide bombings conducted by ISIL that killed 
     44 people at Coptic churches on Palm Sunday 2017 and an 
     attack in December 2016 that killed 29 and injured numerous 
     other Coptic worshipers, many of whom were women and 
       Whereas, according to USCIRF, Rohingya Muslims and other 
     religious and ethnic minorities, including Christians, in 
     Burma have faced ongoing persecution from state and non-state 
     actors for decades, including incidents of intimidation and 
     violence; the forced relocation and destruction of religious 
     sites; violent attacks by mobs and the military; sexual 
     violence and trafficking in persons, and an ongoing campaign 
     of coerced conversion to Buddhism;
       Whereas, according to USCIRF's most recent annual report, 
     conditions for freedom of religion or belief in China 
     continue to decline, with authorities targeting anyone 
     considered a threat to the state, including religious 
     believers, and Chinese authorities arrested Christians for 
     displaying the cross in their homes and printing religious 
     materials, threatened parents for bringing their children to 
     church, and blocked them from holding certain religious 
       Whereas, according to USCIRF, the Government of Eritrea 
     continues to target Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians 
     and Jehovah's Witnesses, suppresses the religious activities 
     of Muslims, dominates the internal affairs of the Coptic 
     Orthodox Church of Eritrea, and has engaged in the torture of 
     religious prisoners;
       Whereas apostasy and blasphemy laws are routinely used 
     across the Middle East and North Africa to intimidate and 
     punish minority faiths and those who would leave Islam;
       Whereas, according to Human Rights Watch, in Pakistan, 
     Christians, Hindus, and Ahmadis are often the victims of 
     violent extremists; forced conversion and marriage of 
     Christian and Hindu girls and young women remains a systemic 
     problem; and blasphemy laws are often used as an excuse to 
     settle personal scores or stir up religious animosity against 
     marginalized religious minorities, resulting in a climate of 
     fear and a chilling effect on religious expression;
       Whereas, according to the Department of State's 2015 
     International Religious Freedom Report, the Government of 
     Iran continues to repress religious minorities, including 
     Baha'is, Christians, Sunnis, Sufis, Yarsanis, and 
     Zoroastrians, by raiding religious gatherings services, 
     arresting and imprisoning worshipers and religious leaders, 
     imprisoning educators, confiscating properties, and executing 
       Whereas, according to the Department of State's 2015 
     International Religious Freedom Report, the Government of 
     Sudan has systematically targeted the Christian community, 
     prosecuting Christian pastors on trumped-up charges, 
     confiscating Christian-owned properties, banning the 
     construction of new Christian houses of worship, destroying 
     numerous religious facilities throughout the country, and 
     targeting human rights defenders for legally representing the 
     Christian community;
       Whereas, according to the February 2014 report of the 
     United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the Human Rights 
     Situation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea 
     (DPRK), there is ``an almost complete denial of the right to 
     freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,''and the 
     Government of the DPRK ``considers the spread of Christianity 
     a particularly serious threat'' and enforces severe 
     punishments for the practice of Christianity;
       Whereas the global religious freedom crisis we are 
     experiencing today has created millions of victims and 
     undermines liberty, prosperity, and peace in places vital to 
     United States national interests--posing direct challenges to 
     United States interests in the Middle East, Russia, China, 
     and sub-Saharan Africa;
       Whereas the absence of fundamental human rights, including 
     religious freedom, contributes to persecution of minorities, 
     religious extremism, terrorism, and instability;
       Whereas there is greater peace, political and social 
     stability, economic development, democratization, and women's 
     empowerment when human rights, including religious freedom, 
     are protected and advanced; and
       Whereas Congress recently recognized, with broad bipartisan 
     support, in the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom 
     Act (Public Law 114-281), enacted on December 16, 2016, that 
     because the promotion of international religious freedom 
     protects human rights, advances democracy abroad, and 
     advances United States interests in stability, security, and 
     development globally, the promotion of international 
     religious freedom requires new and evolving policies, and 
     diplomatic responses that are drawn from the expertise of the 
     national security agencies, the diplomatic services, and 
     other governmental agencies and nongovernmental 
     organizations, and are coordinated across and carried out by 
     the entire range of Federal agencies: Now, therefore, be it
       Resolved, That the Senate--
       (1) reaffirms the commitment of the United States to 
     promoting religious freedom as a fundamental human right and 
     calls on the President and the Secretary of State, in 
     accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 
     1998 (Public Law 105-292), as amended by the Frank R. Wolf 
     International Religious Freedom Act (Public Law 114-281), to 
     strengthen United States foreign policy on behalf of 
     individuals persecuted in foreign countries on account of 
       (2) calls on the President, the Secretary of State, and the 
     Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom to 
     develop an action plan on international religious

[[Page S2921]]

     freedom and to integrate that plan into United States 
     diplomatic, development, and national security strategies;
       (3) in accordance with section 106 of the International 
     Religious Freedom Act (22 U.S.C. 6415), calls on the 
     President, in collaboration with the Secretary of State, the 
     Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, and 
     the Administrator of the United States Agency for 
     International Development, to develop a strategic plan to 
     direct grants funded by the United States Government towards 
     civil society that are implementing innovated programs in key 
     countries to train and work with local religious leaders of 
     all religious communities, including minorities, on the 
     importance of pluralistic societies, rights guaranteed under 
     international law, and reporting mechanisms available to them 
     within international institutions;
       (4) urges the Secretary of State to implement the 
     requirements of section 103 of the Frank Wolf International 
     Religious Freedom Act (Public Law 114-281) and develop a 
     training curriculum for all American diplomats in 
     international religious freedom policy;
       (5) urges the President, the Secretary of State, the 
     Secretary of Defense, and other relevant agencies to develop 
     a comprehensive response to protect the victims of genocide, 
     crimes against humanity, and war crimes and to provide 
     humanitarian, stabilization and recovery assistance to all 
     individuals from religious and ethnic groups so effected in 
     Iraq and Syria;
       (6) calls on the President and the Secretary of State to 
     reestablish the Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group 
     within the Department of State's Federal Advisory Committee 
     established by the previous administration, bringing together 
     experts from government, universities, religious and other 
     nongovernmental organizations to develop an effective 
     multiyear plan to address religious persecution globally and 
     protect and promote international religious freedom; and
       (7) calls on the President, the Secretary of State and the 
     United States Trade Representative to ensure that trade 
     negotiations include religious freedom conditions as mandated 
     by the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and 
     Accountability Act of 2015 (title I of Public Law 114-26).