In recognition of International Religious Freedom Day, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement on reports of increasing attacks against Christian communities in the Middle East and worldwide. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"As we mark International Religious Freedom Day and celebrate the freedom that we in America have to worship freely and openly, it is also incumbent upon us all to speak out and call attention to the plight of those who worship in secret, fearing reprisals. This past year, the world has witnessed unprecedented attacks against Christian communities in the Middle East and beyond.
"In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood extremists are making scapegoats of Coptic Christians following Morsi's ouster as horrendous acts of targeted violence continue to occur on a daily basis and hundreds of Coptic women and girls continue to be abducted and forced to endure unimaginable human rights abuses. In Syria, ancient Christian communities are caught in a raging conflict between the brutal Assad regime and extremists forces who view them as infidels deserving death. And in Iran, detentions and the use of the death penalty have continued unabated, with Christians still facing state-sanctioned persecution and are unable to practice their faith. Just last week, four Iranian Christians received 80 lashes just for drinking wine in a communion ceremony that is a central practice of the Christian faith.
"These attacks against Christians are not isolated to the Middle East. In Pakistan nearly 100 people were killed in a suicide bombing on a church last month, Christians were targeted in the Westgate mall massacre in Kenya, and Christians continue to face persecution in China, North Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere. The United States must stand unwavering in its support for the fundamental rights of people to worship freely and openly and must continue to advance the cause of religious freedom worldwide."