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By IBTimes Staff Reporter | February 20, 2013 1:10 AM PST

After announcing Dr. Andrew Bennett as Canada's first religious ambassador, Prime Minister Stephen Harper Tuesday said that the Canadian ambassador would monitor religious freedom around the world.

Asking Andrew Bennett to track the day to day religious freedom in the world, Stephen Harper said that in countries like China, people were frequently jailed and tortured for religious practices.

"In China, Christians who worship outside government-approved boundaries are driven underground and their leaders are arrested and detained while Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners are subjected to repression and intimidation," said the prime minister while launching the Office of Religious Freedom.

Harper mentioned that Iran and Pakistan as examples where people were vulnerable to persecution and violence for religious practices.

"In Pakistan, Ahmadiyya Muslims, Shiites Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus are vulnerable to persecution and violence," said Harper."In Iran, Bahá'ís and Christians face harassment, imprisonment, and, in some cases, death."

Saying that Canada is a land of religious freedom, Harper pledged to stand in solidarity and support with the countless men and women who are being persecuted for religious practices throughout the world.

"When you are silenced, we will speak out," said Harper referring to the countries where there is no religious freedom.

"We will use our freedom to plead for yours," said Harper. "And, we will not rest until the day you can exercise, fully and without fear, your birthright as members of the human family."

Talking about refugee problems across the world, the Canadian prime minister said that currently his government is providing "safe haven" in Canada for some 20,000 Iraqi refugees.

"But we are compelled to do more by the sheer number and gravity of the offences against this fundamental right around the world and the assault it implies on democracy itself," said Stephen Harper.

Office of Religious Freedom comes under the aegis of Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Dr. Bennett is a scholar, religious leader and a public servant. He has previously worked for the Privy Council Office, Export Development Canada and Natural Resources Canada in a wide variety of analytical, research and corporate roles.

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