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Sunday Marks International Religious Freedom Day's 21st Anniversary


This Sunday, Oct. 27 marks the 21st anniversary of the signing of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Act of 1998.  

Religious persecution continues to plague many countries around the world and the problem is only getting worse.

"On this day, we remember and pray for those who are oppressed for their faith around the globe," Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said in a statement. "With more than 80 percent of the world's population living where religious freedom is threatened or denied, the United States must remain an active voice to both condemn religious persecution and to stand for the religious freedom of all people."

"As a nation, we have hosted victims of religious persecution from around the world during the State Department's Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom so their stories can finally be heard," he continued. "We worked to secure the release of individuals like Dr. Andrew Brunson who was imprisoned in Turkey for two years."

Brunson served in Turkey as a missionary for more than 20 years, where they established the Izmir Resurrection Church. He openly shared Christ and also helped Syrian refugees – some of them Kurds.

For that, the Turkish government accused Brunson of being a CIA agent, plotting with Kurdish terrorists to carry out the attempted coup.

"While we have taken these important steps, there is much more to be done, and we should capitalize on every opportunity to engage. As we continue to negotiate a trade agreement with China, we should advocate for the one million Uyghurs and religious minorities detained in China at re-education camps, and advocate for the release of individuals like Pastor Cao," Lankford said. 

Pastor Cao was arrested two years ago while carrying out a humanitarian mission to the people of China and neighboring Burma (Myanmar), something he has done for more than 30 years.

He will be transferred from the Menglian Detention Center to prison. It is unclear which prison he will be sent to and for how long.

"Over 20 years ago, enactment of the IRF Act was an important step forward to advance religious freedom through establishment of the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department, the position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The numbers regarding Christian persecution are so staggering that it is nearing the international definition for "genocide."

The attack against the church in Funan is just as brazen as the raid staged by Chinese officials last December against the Early Rain Covenant Church. Several members of the church were imprisoned along with its pastor Wang Yi.

In June, Yi's wife Jiang Rong, 46, and their son were released after spending six months in prison. 

"On this day, we remember and pray for those who are oppressed for their faith around the globe," Lankford concluded.

For so many people around the world, finding religious tolerance is increasingly a matter of life and death. 

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