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H.Res. 732 (112th): Calling for the protection of the rights and freedoms of religious minorities in the Arab world.

The text of the resolution below is as of Jul 17, 2012 (Introduced).


IV

112th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. RES. 732

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

July 17, 2012

(for himself, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Wolf, Mr. Pitts, Mr. Connolly of Virginia, Mr. Smith of New Jersey, Mrs. Hartzler, Mr. Van Hollen, Mr. Burton of Indiana, Mr. Brady of Pennsylvania, Mr. Jones, Ms. Buerkle, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Calvert, Mr. Bilirakis, Mr. Forbes, Mr. Aderholt, Mr. Scalise, Mr. Harris, Mr. Sensenbrenner, Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Walberg, Mr. McIntyre, Mr. Canseco, Mr. Lamborn, Mr. Poe of Texas, Mr. Peters, Mr. Marino, Mr. Huelskamp, Mr. Shuler, Mr. Gowdy, Mr. Sires, and Ms. Eshoo) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs

RESOLUTION

Calling for the protection of the rights and freedoms of religious minorities in the Arab world.

Whereas Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that [e]veryone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change one's religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest one's religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance;

Whereas Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.;

Whereas, since January 2011, popular uprisings and movements for democratic change have swept the Arab world, including Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Syria;

Whereas many democratic reformers in the Arab world expressed aspirations for religious freedom, tolerance, and peace;

Whereas in recent months, in the midst of political transition and uncertainty in many Arab countries, minority ethno-religious communities have come under repeated and deadly attack;

Whereas, on January 1, 2011, a suicide bomber attacked the Saint George and Bishop Peter Church in Alexandria, killing 21 Coptic Christians, an ancient Egyptian religious faith community that accounts for over 10 percent of the country’s population of 82,000,000;

Whereas, on October 9, 2011, tens of thousands of Coptic Christians along with Muslims took to the streets in the Maspero section of Cairo to protest Egypt’s interim military government’s failure to protect them from attacks on churches, and, in response, were attacked by the Egyptian military and security forces in one of the deadliest assaults on the community since the revolution began, with at least 25 Christians killed and more than 300 Copts and Muslims injured;

Whereas, on October 9, 2011, more violence was incited by Egyptian television when Egyptians were called upon to protect the army against the peaceful protests of the Christians;

Whereas the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces promised an independent investigation into the events surrounding the October 9, 2011, massacre, yet no action has been taken to date to punish the perpetrators of the massacre;

Whereas, on October 16, 2011, in the Upper Egyptian town of Mallawi, 17-year-old Ayman Labib, when he could not remove a cross tattooed on his wrist, was brutally attacked and murdered by students in his class who were incited by his teacher;

Whereas attacks against the Coptic Christian community have continued unabated since the revolution began, with the government creating a climate of impunity by providing little justice or protection from these attacks;

Whereas, since March 2011, tens of thousands of Copts have reportedly left Egypt, increasing the trends of refugees fleeing from Egypt;

Whereas, on October 31, 2010, the deadliest ever recorded attack on Iraqi Christians occurred at the Sayidat al-Nejat Catholic Cathedral in central Baghdad, where militants stormed the church and held parishioners hostage for several hours, and later detonated 2 suicide vests filled with ball bearings, killing 58 and wounding 78 parishioners, including 3 priests;

Whereas since the Iraq War began, over one-half of Iraq’s Christian population has disappeared, been killed, or been forced into flight by terrorist groups, thereby threatening the very existence of this ancient community in Iraq;

Whereas the United States Department of State’s July–December 2010 Religious Freedom Report found that the Iraqi Christian population is approximately half of its 2003 level, a staggering loss of communities that date back thousands of years;

Whereas the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has reported that marginalization, discrimination, threats of death, kidnapping for ransom, and attacks and murders by terrorists have threatened the elimination of Iraq’s Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, and other ancient ethno-religious communities such as the Mandaeans and Yezidis; and

Whereas the Arab Spring’s democracy advocates will not be safe to express themselves or achieve the benefits of a stable, peaceful, and transparent democracy until religious freedom for all, including religious minorities, and the freedoms that parallel those rights, such as freedom of association, expression, and equal protection under the law are enshrined in any future legal or political reforms in countries throughout the region: Now, therefore, be it

That the House of Representatives—

(1)

recognizes, in light of the upheaval brought by the Arab Spring, that religious freedom is critical to democratization, so that all people can freely associate, speak, and peacefully participate equally in the political process, and that religious minorities are protected during this time of transition in the region;

(2)

calls upon the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to press all member nations to protect the rights of religious minorities within their borders and treat those minorities as equal citizens, which includes the vigorous prosecution of any crimes against them;

(3)

urges the United States Government to lead an international effort to support legal and political reforms for the equal protection of religious freedom for all as a foundation for a stable, peaceful, and lasting democracy in the region by—

(A)

making legal protection for the freedom of religion and for all who peacefully practice their faith a top priority in all meetings with senior foreign officials, communicating the message that foreign officials must—

(i)

end the climate of impunity when religious minorities are attacked;

(ii)

vigorously prosecute those individuals truly responsible for the attacks; and

(iii)

ensure equality under the law for all people to adopt a religion or belief of their choice, to change that religion or belief, and to manifest their religious beliefs in worship, observances, practice, and teaching;

(B)

supporting and directing United States officials with international programs in the Middle East to work with officials, civil society actors, and ethno-religious communities to educate all sectors of society that religious freedom provides a foundation for the democratic freedoms they seek to achieve;

(C)

supporting greater Internet freedom throughout the region to provide the opportunity for access to information and the free exchange of ideas; and

(D)

encouraging the protection of places of worship and historic religious and cultural sites against terrorist attacks;

(4)

encourages the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the newly elected Egyptian President to ensure that the constituent assembly will draft a new constitution that is representative of all parts of Egyptian society, including religious minorities;

(5)

calls on the appointees of Egypt’s constituent assembly to enshrine the internationally recognized principles of freedom of religion and freedom of expression into the new constitution;

(6)

calls upon the Government of Egypt and the newly elected Egyptian President to prosecute acts of violence against Christians and make their protection an urgent priority; and

(7)

calls upon the local and federal governments of Iraq to prosecute acts of violence against Iraqi Christians, and make the protection of ancient ethno-religious minorities in Iraq an urgent priority.