'Iron curtain' of religious persecution must end, says US religious freedom rep

Liu Ande, 62, prays during Sunday Mass at the official Catholic Church in Yingtan.Reuters

The US' religious freedom ambassador Sam Brownback made an impassioned plea to people of faith on Tuesday to fight for their liberties and those of others suffering for their faith worldwide.

He was speaking at the State Department's Second Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which has brought around 1,000 leaders from religious and civic groups to Washington DC this week. 

Brownback called on them to be a part of a new "global grassroots movement" to advance religious liberty as he said that the "iron curtain" of persecution needed to "come down now", the Catholic News Agency reports.

"We need your activism. We need your passion. We need you to boldly fight for religious freedom," he told them. "As united we do stand, divided we fall - and often we fall in catastrophic, and sometimes even genocidal, ways."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also present at the summit and echoed the call from Brownback by asking those in attendance to get the ball rolling by forming "religious freedom roundtables" in their own countries. 

"All people must be permitted to practise their faith openly," he said. 

In comments made ahead of the ministerial to Religion News Service, Brownback singled out China and Iran for particular criticism. 

"The Chinese have been pushing back on this area; the Iranians have no remorse or thought that what (they are) doing to the Baha'is or Jews or Christians is wrong," he said.

"And so we thought while we're trying to build a movement we need to get as many like-mindeds on board as we can."

He said he wanted to see people of faith support each other.

"We're trying to get religions to stand for each other," he said. "A religion that's a majority someplace is a minority someplace else, and you need to stand up for each other's fundamental right to have religious freedom."