December 18, 2013

Kaine Applauds Committee Action On Bill To Create Special Envoy For Religious Minorities In The Middle East

Kaine, Chairman of Middle East Subcommittee, cites growing religious persecution across region

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern, Southern and Central Asian Affairs, today applauded committee action on the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2013, of which he is a co-sponsor. The bill, introduced by Senators Roy Blunt, Carl Levin and Bob Casey cites growing instances of religious persecution in the Middle East and calls for the creation of a special envoy within the State Department to bring attention to the problem and advocate for religious liberty in the region. It is similar to a House bill sponsored by fellow Virginian, Congressman Frank Wolf, a longtime advocate for religious freedom around the world.

“I was glad to join my Senate colleagues and Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf in promoting the appointment of a full-time special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East. I’m pleased that the Foreign Relations Committee has recognized the importance of this priority by advancing this legislation today,” said Kaine. 

“The recent story about the likely kidnapping of Catholic nuns in Syria is just the latest example of an escalating epidemic of religious persecution in the Middle East,” Kaine said, referencing the alleged kidnapping of 12 Lebanese and Syrian Greek Orthodox nuns from the Syrian village of Maaloula earlier this month. “Attacks on Christians, Jews, Baha'I, Ahmadiyya Muslims and other religious minorities are occurring with greater frequency.”

“The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 1787, became the model for our constitutional protection of religious freedom for all,” Kaine continued. “The United States can and should play a key role in exposing these human rights violations and working to promote religious liberty in a region that is the birthplace for so many of the world's faith traditions.”