– As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks on the House floor in support of a resolution that condemns the persecution of Christians around the world (H.Res.407):
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this measure, and yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank Mr. Grothman of Wisconsin for authoring this resolution and also to my good friend and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce for his leadership as always.
“Mr. Speaker, freedom of worship is a basic human right. Yet, we see religious minorities all over the world subjected to persecution and violence.
“In Iraq and Syria, ISIS has forced Christians in Mosul to convert to Islam, to pay a ‘protection tax,’ to flee or face execution. ISIS has carried out genocide against the Yezidis, the Christians, and the Shias. In Europe, we see synagogues fire-bombed and a surge of anti-Semitism across the continent. And in Burma, we see government security forces engaged in ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.
“The freedom of religion has been a bedrock principle of open and democratic societies for centuries. It is enshrined in our founding documents, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in charters of democracies all over the world. The freedom to worship as a person chooses—or not to worship at all—is a broad right that should not be restrained by a government or a fanatical group.
“Religious persecution holds societies back, undercuts progress, and is usually associated with a much broader assault on basic human rights.
“So here in the United States, we must make it clear that it is not enough to just guarantee religious liberty to our own people. We must speak out and act when we see this freedom, this liberty—and any other freedom—under attack anywhere, and hold accountable those responsible for human-rights abuses.
“In places like China, we see freedom of speech under attack. In Chechnya, we see LGBT individuals targeted, tortured, and executed by Putin’s cronies just for who they love. And we see women’s reproductive rights under attack.
“So we must also speak out against attacks on our press, on our right to organize, on equality for LGBT persons, on women’s right to control their own bodies.
“This legislation helps us send the clear message that protecting all human rights is a priority for the United States.
“And finally, Mr. Chairman, we all know that America’s first immigrants came here because they were fleeing religious persecution in their home countries.
“It would be hypocritical of us to condemn current-day religious persecution around the world, and then to slam our door shut in the faces of those trying to flee such persecution. America must remain a place where those facing persecution or death can find refuge.
“I support this measure. I urge my colleagues to do the same and I reserve the balance of my time.”
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