Defending religious freedom

By Congressman Bradley Byrne

Each year, during Holy Week, Christians gather in the pews to remember the death and crucifixion of Jesus and celebrate his resurrection. As we retell the story of the Passion and celebrate Easter, we count our many blessings and profess our faith as Christians.

For many Americans, Easter marks a time of reflection and celebration spent with family members. It can be easy to take for granted our freedom to practice our beliefs freely. Unfortunately, in other parts of the world, people of minority religious backgrounds are in danger of being persecuted for their beliefs. Alarmingly, many of them live in fear of openly professing their faith.

As we know all too well, Jesus Christ himself was persecuted and unjustly died for his religious beliefs. We should be guided by his teaching that injustice toward any individual, no matter their beliefs, should not be allowed to continue.

Recently, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an organization promoting religious freedom and raising awareness on the worldwide persecution of Christians and other religious groups, published a startling report revealing the influence that persecution of religious minority children has on obtaining a quality education.

No child should ever be turned away from an education simply for following their faith.

Even more troubling, as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Islamic extremists hold power in parts of the Middle East, Christian churches and holy sites are being desecrated and Christians themselves are being forced from their homes, attacked, captured, killed, and even beheaded. While much progress has been made in the fight against ISIS, these shocking stories of injustice reiterate a need for action.

In response to this growing threat, the House passed H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017, to support entities, including faith-based organizations, that are serving victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed by ISIS and other terrorist organizations.

Additionally, the bill encourages foreign countries to add information about suspected perpetrators of terror attacks to their security databases. By addressing the source of these attacks, we can better protect Christians and other religious minorities being attacked for their beliefs. The passage of this legislation was a positive step for religious freedom across the globe.

I have always made it a priority to bring attention to the heartbreaking reality of religious persecution that takes place around the world. While things may appear comfortable on our own soil, we must keep in mind that the problem of religious persecution around the globe is sadly getting worse, not better.

We must also remember that the issue of religious freedom is about more than just Christians. The ability for people to exercise their faith without fear of retribution is key to a stable democracy, recognized by our founding fathers nearly 250 years ago. Our national interests are best served when the world is stable and individuals are not deprived of basic freedoms. As Ronald Reagan said, “A government which does not respect the rights of its own people and laws is unlikely to respect those of its neighbors.”

This Easter, in addition to your regular reflections, I urge you to stop and say a special prayer for our brothers and sisters who are under attack across the globe for their faith. I also encourage you to say a prayer for our country and our leaders, that we may realize this worldwide struggle and move forward to bring about true change that preserves the freedom of religion around the globe.

From my family to yours: Happy Easter and may God continue to bless our great nation.