Ambassador-at-Large Brownback‘s Remarks on the Release of the 2017 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, D.C.
May 29, 2018

EXCERPTS OF ON-THE-RECORD-BRIEFING
Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback
On the Release of the 2017 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom

AMBASSADOR BROWNBACK:  I want to thank Secretary Pompeo.  I’m grateful to him, to President Trump, Vice President Pence, the administration for their effort in defending religious freedom.  As he announced and stated, it’s a top priority of this administration.

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The International Religious Freedom Report is the annual assessment of the state of religious freedom in our world today.  We all have a stake in this fight.  One person’s bondage is another person’s burden to break.  We’re all people with beautiful and undeniable human dignity.  Our lives are sacred.  Our right to choose the road our conscience takes is inalienable.

We report on what has occurred and been said around the world.  We don’t make judgment calls in this report of what’s worthy to report or not.  We just report it all.  There are people killed in the world today for their faith.  There are people denied access to work or medicine for their beliefs.  There are more subtle forms, as well, of persecution.  We report it all, without comment or analysis.

Our goal is to protect the freedom of conscience for all people.  That means protecting a Muslim, Buddhist, Falun Gong practitioner, or Christian in China and their ability to pray and live out their life.  That means protecting a blogger in the Middle East, who doesn’t believe that his government might – what his government might believe.  Our desire is to protect both – to protect everyone’s right to freely practice what they believe.

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QUESTION:  Thank you very much, Ambassador.  As the United States engages in primarily economic conversations with China, how much does its religious freedom practices play into the discussions of what the United States pushes?  Is it a factor at all?

AMBASSADOR BROWNBACK:  It is a factor, and these are parts of the discussion that we continue to bring forward and put forward.  We noted in the report what’s taking place and the very troubling situation, particularly one right now that – the Uighurs and the problem that they’re experiencing in the country and the number of people in re-education camps.  That was a concept you thought was gone decades ago and being experienced in a growing amount.  The report cites a number of very, very troubling concerns and a decline in religious freedom.  So that’s why we put it forward in this report for greater action to take place.

I’ve been meeting with people in the administration and on the Hill about what’s happening there, about the situation for Tibetan Buddhists that continues to be a very difficult situation for them, for Christians, for Falun Gong practitioners.  China remains a very, very troubling country on religious freedom.  And those are noted and put forward and discussed within the administration.

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