U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement today following the release of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's (USCIRF) 15th annual report on the status of religious freedom around the world. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen also announced her decision to "adopt" prisoner of conscience, Rozita Vaseghi -- a Member of the Baha'i community who is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence for practicing her faith. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"USCIRF's latest report paints a grim picture of the current situation facing religious minorities throughout the world and serves as a wakeup call to the United States government that we need to recommit ourselves to fighting for and protecting those who are unable to protect themselves. We must take action to hold these governments accountable for their human rights abuses.
"Countries like Iran - where, despite his promises for reform, Rouhani has overseen a precipitous worsening of human rights, particularly for religious minorities -- deserve its designation, but one has to scratch their head and wonder how Syria, Pakistan, Vietnam and others remain off the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list. This latest report also reaffirms that religious freedom continues to suffer in Cuba as the Castro regime continues its harassment of religious leaders and groups, placing many of those who express their faith under surveillance and detention. The regime continually prevents human rights activists, like the Ladies in White who march peacefully each Sunday to mass in protest over the unjust detention of their loved ones, from attending religious services and actively encourages other Cuban citizens to beat the Ladies as they try to enter their churches."