Florida Senator Marco Rubio has questioned two Asian-Pacific ambassador nominees on their commitment to religious freedom in the region.
The questioning took place at a Senate Foreign Relations meeting earlier this week, in which Rubio, a rising star in the GOP party, questioned Daniel Clune, a nominee to become ambassador of Laos, and Joseph Yun, a nominee for the ambassador of Malaysia, on their commitment to religious freedom in each country.
Rubio pointed to several recent alleged human rights and religious transgressions involving the Asian-Pacific countries, including the recent incident in May in which Laotian authorities arrested nine North Korean defectors en route to South Korea, and sent them back to their homeland where they were likely to face punishment in labor camps for their “disloyalty.”
Rubio also referenced, among other incidences, issues for religious minorities in Malaysia, a predominately Muslim country where recently the country’s leaders rebuked a Vatican official’s suggestion that the term “Allah” (the Arabic word for “God”) be used on Christian churches in the country.
The Florida senator told the nominees that he sees, especially in Malaysia, an “increasing encroachment on religious liberties, which I think is an essential human right.”
Rubio asserted that he hopes the nominees, if confirmed to be ambassadors, do not simply monitor religious persecution, but become forceful advocates for religious minorities around the world.
“Our hope is that if you are confirmed, you won’t just monitor and bring [to our] attention [the issues], but that you’ll be a forceful advocate on behalf of those being oppressed,” Rubio said. “I think it’s important for the U.S. that our representative there be someone who speaks clearly on these issues.”
According to The Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The Brody File”, Rubio’s dedication to religious liberty, both on a national and international scale, could serve him well with the evangelical vote should he choose to run for president in 2016, as some political pundits predict.
Rubio wrote in May 2013 that he feels it is the responsibility of the U.S. to ensure religious liberty is awarded to all around the world.
“[Religious liberty is] a fundamental human right that many of our ancestors did not have before they came to America,” Rubio wrote at the time.
“With this great blessing comes great responsibility to help ensure that others around the world can freely exercise their religious freedom as well,” Rubio added.
Daniel Clune, the nominee for ambassador of Laos, currently serves as principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the State Department, while Joseph Yun works as the principal deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department.