Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke Testifies on Religious Freedom and National Security

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke will testify before Congress today and detail recommendations for the U.S. government to advance U.S. policy on international religious freedom in ways that are mutually beneficial to both the protection of national security and human rights. Stahnke’s testimony comes as recent events in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, and Egypt underscore the urgency of formulating U.S. foreign and national security policies that promote and protect religious freedom and related human rights as part of the strategy to secure U.S. national interests abroad. Stahnke will also urge Congress to confirm Rabbi David Saperstein to be the next Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom before the mid-term election recess.

“We know from empirical data that religious freedom is an indicator of free societies with accountable governments and thriving civil societies. We also know the converse: denying religious freedom is associated with increased conflict and hostility, restrictions on civil and political rights, political instability and violent extremism,” Stahnke will note in his testimony. “In fact, more than three quarters of the world’s population are restricted from freely practicing their faith, and there is a rising tide of religious intolerance and government restrictions. This is an ongoing threat to U.S. national security.”

Tomorrow’s testimony notes an alarming rise in violence targeting religious minority communities, from ISIS to Boko Haram to Egypt, Pakistan and Burma. It details country specific strategies that integrate promotion of religious freedom and related human rights into U.S. efforts to confront these national security challenges, with the goal of preventing security situations from deteriorating to the point where it becomes necessary to consider military action by the United States as a viable option. To accomplish this, the United States should:

  • Promote a more rights-respecting approach by foreign governments to counterterrorism.
  • Stop U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar from funding religious extremism.
  • Provide assistance to integrate members of religious minorities into the security services and promote greater accountability for violence.
  • Counteract extremist propaganda and hatred.
  • Assist internally displaced persons, refugees, and asylum seekers fleeing religious persecution.

Stahnke recently visited Hungary and Greece, where he researched the rise and political success of violent ultranationalist anti-Semitic parties. This informed recommendations in Human Rights First’s report “We’re Not Nazis, but…  The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care.”


Published on September 18, 2014


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