WASHINGTON – Leaders from around the country teamed up to defend religious freedom and act as a voice for the voiceless against religious persecution in the world.
"We condemn religious freedom violations, everyone from atheist to Christians to believers," Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, a member of the U.S. Commission in International Religious Freedom, said during a panel discussion Wednesday.
The bipartisan U.S. federal government commission monitors the universal right to freedom of religion abroad. They just released a 2017 report on how religious freedom in more than 30 countries is getting worse.
"We specifically name names so that those stories are lifted and people gain the strength that they need in order to continue fighting for their faith," de Bucholz.
For the first time, the report designated Russia as a "country of particular concern" due to worsening religious freedoms, which includes the recent ban of Jehovah's Witnesses.
North Korea also made the list. With freedom of religion being non-existent in the communist nation, North Korea was ranked as one of the worst, most repressive regimes.
Consequently, the commission recommends imposing targeted sanctions, encouraging Chinese support and is calling for a follow-up U.N. inquiry into freedom of religion violations.
"The human rights situation there is terrible and religious freedom has suffered greatly under the regime," de Bucholz charged.
The commission is urging the Trump administration to make religious freedom a priority in foreign policy.