Wednesday, August 03, 2011
The US has announced the creation of a special envoy for Middle East religious minorities, highlighting continued persecution of Christians and other minority groups, reports the media watchdog Just Journalism. The announcement comes as an Iraqi church is targeted by a car bomb.
The Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm reported on Monday that the US Congress had passed a bill assigning a special envoy for minority affairs in the Middle East and Asia, allocating an annual budget of one million US dollars to support the rights of religious minorities in the region.
The position, aimed at ‘promoting and protecting religious freedoms’ in the Middle East, is set out in a bill introduced on 22 June by Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Republican Roy Blunt. In a statement published on Senator Levin’s official Senate website, the US politician remarks:
‘It is profoundly in the interests of the United States to promote freedom of worship and the rights of religious minorities around the world, and especially in nations where those freedoms are under threat… [S]uch violence is a threat to regional stability in a part of the world where U.S. interests are great. Moreover, our support for these universal human values affirms the principles upon which our own nation was founded.’
Senator Blunt is also quoted expressing hope that those Middle Eastern countries currently in the midst of political upheaval ‘will look to the United States as a model of religious tolerance and freedom’.
According to Al Masry Al Youm, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party criticised the appointment:
‘“The US is trying to interfere in the region’s internal affairs again, now that the old regimes, its former allies, are toppled,” said the party’s vice president Rafiq Habib.’
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House votes for US 'religious rights' envoy (Daily Star - with thanks: Sarah)