Coalition Asks Congress to Continue Support of Democracy-building, Human Rights, and Religious Freedom in Russia. PCP. Report.

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Washington, D.C. - A coalition of religious leaders, activists, and academics has asked the United States Congress to maintain support and development of non-governmental organizations in Russia to address issues of religious freedom, human rights, and democracy.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders initiated by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, the coalition asks that Congress not approve the Bush Administration's budget request for Fiscal Year 2004 which would decrease Freedom Support Act (FSA) assistance to Russia by a significant amount.

Since 1992, many Russian-led groups have been established to protect the rights of religious believers during the process of transformation and democratization. Their success has been due in large part to the support provided by the United States through the Freedom Support Act.

The letter points out that, "Reductions in funding for FSA programs in Russia will inhibit the implementation of a great number of valuable civil initiatives that protect the rights of religious believers. This will affect the development of civil society in Russia as a whole."

"This crucial funding enables Russian non-governmental organizations to continue their important work towards democratization, human rights, and religious freedom protections," commented Institute President Joseph K. Grieboski. "Critics have argued that this is an obscure, bloated federal grant program. However, those critics have failed to acknowledge that many of the recipient groups lack local Russian sources of support and believe that cuts in FSA are likely to put their very survival at risk. US support has also provided them with important backing to take on tough and controversial issues that may make them targets by politically motivated groups."

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