Press Release  Religious Liberty

Religious Leaders Urge U.S. Senate to Advance Religious Freedom for Religious Minorities

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 4, 2014Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Conventions Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Bishop Richard E. Pates, chairman of the U.S. bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace, filed a letter today urging the U.S. Senate to work with religious leaders to address a growing crisis of religious minorities by allowing a vote on S. 653, a bill that would establish a Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.

As the representatives of two of the largest Christian denominations in the country, we write today to urge you to work with us in addressing the growing crisis of religious minorities in this region, wrote Moore and Pates.

In many instances, religious minorities have lived for centuries side by side with those of other faiths, but now find themselves coming under increased attack and harassment. Over eight million Syrians, many of whom are Christians, are caught in the cross-fire between the government and opposition forces, have fled their homes, becoming internally displaced or flooding into neighboring countries. A Special Envoy, working in collaboration with the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, can help insure that basic human rights of these minority communities, who face such enormous threats, are protected, they wrote.

Moore and Pates wrote the letter to Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, who placed a hold on the bill creating this position. In the letter, Moore and Pates said they envision this envoy working in partnership with the State Departments Office of International Religious Freedom and the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, but concentrating on the growing challenges of protecting historic Christian communities and promoting the rights of all religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.

Full text of the letter is available “online.”:

The Southern Baptist Convention is Americas largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 15.9 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBCs ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn. and Washington, D.C.

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