Jeremy Barker, Director of RFI’s Middle East Action Team, testified Tuesday at a joint hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on Oversight and Reform.
The hearing, entitled, “Ending Global Religious Persecution,” also featured testimony from Ms. Rachel Deitch of the American Humanist Association, Ms. Rushan Abbas of the Campaign for Uyghurs, and Mr. Francisco Bencosme of Amnesty International.
During his testimony, Barker remarked,“ [P]erhaps the greatest threat of religious persecution is authoritarian regimes at the helm of technology-aided surveillance states. China has laid out a blueprint for government repression of religion through its use of emerging technology and artificial intelligence.”
Barker went on to highlight the distinct threats to institutional religious freedom in our world today:
The assault on houses of worship has spanned the globe, affecting not only Christians, such as the Easter bombing of churches in Sri Lanka, but mosques, and synagogues as well.
Providing protection for houses of worship from violence and prosecuting those responsible for such attacks should be a minimum expectation for any government committed to preserve the most basic rights of its citizens.
Elaborating on this theme, he also provided an account of the systematic targeting of religious institutions in sub-Saharan Africa and China.
Barker stated that the United States should play a more active role in combating persecution:
If the United States is to do its part in this effort, advancing religious freedom must be elevated as a foreign policy priority, such that it becomes an all-of-government effort, that informs diplomatic engagements, defense and security decisions, and foreign assistance programs. Until that happens, the efforts to address these challenges will remain isolated acts of compassion and heroism, but insufficient to address the full scope of the challenge.