WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Trump’s administration is denouncing the Islamic State group for carrying out “genocide” against Christians and other religious minorities in areas under its control.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the group is “clearly responsible for genocide” against Christians, Yazidis and Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.
His comments came Tuesday as the State Department released its annual report on international religious freedom.
“Many governments around the world used discriminatory laws to deny their citizens freedom of religion or belief,” Tillerson said when presenting the report at the State Department. “No one should have to live in fear, worship in secret, face discrimination because of their beliefs.”
Tillerson said the report serves as a resource for governments and citizens alike, helping to inform the work of faith leaders, lawmakers, rights advocates, academics, business leaders, multilateral institutions, and non-governmental organizations.
In his preface to the document, the Secretary of State also accused IS of committing crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing of Sunni Muslims and Kurds.
He said protecting persecuted groups is a priority for the Trump administration.
“The United States promotes religious freedom as a moral imperative,” Tillerson said. “As importantly, we promote religious freedom because countries that effectively safeguard this human right are more stable, economically vibrant, and peaceful. The failure of governments to protect this right breeds instability, terrorism, and violence.”
He said the United States is firmly committed to advancing the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“The release of this report gives voice to all those worldwide seeking to live their lives peacefully in accordance with their conscience,” Tillerson said.
— Department of State (@StateDept) August 15, 2017
The report looks at the status of religious freedom in 199 countries, and Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were all named as countries of “particular concern” due to the lack of protections for religious freedom.
In his remarks at the State Department, Tillerson also made particular mention of the deteriorating situation for religious liberty in Turkey, Pakistan, and Bahrain; all U.S. allies.
The report, mandated by Congress, covers 2016 and does not address the Trump administration’s decision to temporarily halt the admission of refugees, many of whom are fleeing religious discrimination.
It is one of two reports on religious freedom issued annually by the U.S. government. The bi-partisan and independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released its report in April.
It recommended the State Department add Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria and Vietnam to the list of “countries of particular concern.”
The Trump Administration did not follow the suggestion, but U.S. Ambassadors in all those countries did participate in events promoting religious liberty.
During his remarks, Tillerson also said he expected “swift confirmation” of Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Brownback was nominated for the position by Trump on July 26.
Crux staff contributed to this report.