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Former US President Barack Obama proclaims January 16 as Religious Freedom Day

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Delhi, Jan 15, 2017: Former US President Barack Obama has spread a surge of religious tolerance in his countrymen and proclaimed January 16 as Religious Freedom Day. Obama said, “Religious freedom is a principle based not on shared ancestry, culture, ethnicity or faith, but on a shared commitment to liberty- and it lies at the very heart of who we are as Americans.”

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Obama urged everyone to strictly avoid religion based politics. He also said that one should never target anyone on the basis of their religious preference. Obama said, “Part of being American means guarding against bigotry and speaking out on behalf of others, no matter their background or belief- whether they are wearing a hijab or a baseball cap, a yarmulke or a cowboy hat.”

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Obama said that in 2015, nearly 20 percent of hate crime victims in America were targeted because of religious bias. “That is unacceptable — and as Americans, we have an obligation to do better. If we are to defend religious freedom, we must remember that when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up,” he said.

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The former US President also said, “Brave men and women of faith have challenged our conscience and brought us closer to our founding ideals, from the abolition of slavery to the expansion of civil rights and workers’ rights. And throughout our history, faith communities have helped uphold these values by joining in efforts to help those in need — rallying in the face of tragedy and providing care or shelter in times of disaster.”

Obama said that America’s strength comes from its diversity and he signed off saying, “And we must be unified in our commitment to protecting the freedoms of conscience and religious belief and the freedom to live our lives according to them.”

– prepared by Shambhavi Sinha of NewsGram. Twitter:  @shambhavispeaks

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U.S.A: Myanmar’s Military Campaign Against Rohingya Muslims a ‘Mass Genocide’

Lawyers for the reporters said their clients were set up and have appealed their sentences and convictions.

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Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wade past a waterlogged path leading to the Jamtoli refugee camp in Ukhiya, Bangladesh. VOA

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution by a vote of 394-1 Thursday, declaring Myanmar’s military campaign against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority a genocide.

A United Nations report released in August said the military carried out mass killings and gang rapes with “genocidal intent” and also definitively called for Myanmar officials to face genocide charges for the first time.

Rohingya Growing

Myanmar’s military has denied previous accusations it had committed genocide, maintaining its actions were part of an anti-terrorism campaign.

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Rohingya refugees carry a hume pipe in Balukhali refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

The atrocities have prompted the U.N. and a number of political and human rights leaders to question the southeast Asian country’s progress toward democracy.

The Burma Task Force, a coalition of U.S. and Canadian Muslim organizations, applauded the genocide designation.

“The House of Representatives has now officially adopted the position that the ongoing policies of mass violence and displacement against the Rohingya by the Myanmar government constitute genocide, bringing the U.S. closer to the emerging international consensus on the issue.

The U.S. State Department usually makes such official designations but has not used the term genocide to describe the military’s atrocities against the Rohingya.

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Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

The House resolution also called on the Myanmar government to release Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were jailed one year ago.

Also Read: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Under Fire For Myanmar Tweets

They were sentenced in September to seven years in prison for violating the country’s colonial-era Secrets Act. Lawyers for the reporters said their clients were set up and have appealed their sentences and convictions.

The Myanmar embassy in Washington did not immediately comment on the House vote. (VOA)