Washington: A leading Republican presidential candidate and senator has called for Pakistan to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) after a US state department report expressed deep concern over the status of religious freedoms in the country.
"Religious freedom must be a bedrock of American foreign policy. The stakes are too high for anything less. We need to redouble our efforts to serve as a beacon for religious freedom around the world and press countries to implement policies that protect religious expression and worship," Senator Marco Rubio said in a statement after the State Department released its annual report on International Religious Freedom for the year 2014.
The State Department does not utilise the tools it has to name and shame violators of religious freedom such as the designation of Country of Particular Concern (CPC), he said.
The administration should re-designate countries every year for their religious freedom violations, Rubio urged.
"In particular, countries such as Pakistan, Syria and Vietnam should be considered for a CPC designation, as has been repeatedly recommended by the independent US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)," Rubio said.
Noting that religious communities are under attack in the 21st century, Rubio said there are many governments that are complicit in religious repression by enforcing oppressive laws against religious minorities or standing idly by while minorities are persecuted for their beliefs.
"In Cuba, where the Ladies in White are beaten on their way to church, to Iran where an American pastor languishes in prison, to China where Christian churches are demolished and pictures of the Dalai Lama are banned, around the world religious freedom is being threatened," he said.
"These attacks on religious freedom are both a moral and strategic national security concern for the United States. Sadly this issue has been met with little urgency or vision on the part of the Obama administration - at precisely the time it's most needed," Rubio said.