The U.S. State Department has produced an International Religious Freedom Report every year for 23 years. It offers a comprehensive review of the state of religious freedom in nearly 200 countries and territories around the world, and it reflects the collective effort of literally hundreds of American diplomats around the world. The 2020 Report was just released.
Announcing the release of the 2020 Report, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “Religious freedom is a human right; in fact, it goes to the heart of what it means to be human – to think freely, to follow our conscience, to change our beliefs if our hearts and minds lead us to do so, to express those beliefs in public and in private.
“This freedom is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s also part of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Our country’s commitment to defending freedom of religion and belief goes back centuries. It continues today.”
Religious freedom, like every human right, is universal, Blinken said.
“All people, everywhere, are entitled to it no matter where they live, what they believe, or what they don’t believe. Religious freedom is co-equal with other human rights because human rights are indivisible. Religious freedom is not more or less important than the freedom to speak and assemble, to participate in the political life of one’s country, to live free from torture or slavery, or any other human right. Indeed, they’re all interdependent. Religious freedom can’t be fully realized unless other human rights are respected, and when governments violate their people’s right to believe and worship freely, it jeopardizes all the others. And religious freedom is a key element of an open and stable society. Without it, people aren’t able to make their fullest contribution to their country’s success. And whenever human rights are denied, it ignites tension, it breeds division.”
This year’s International Religious Freedom Report indicates, for many people around the world this right is still out of reach, Blinken said.
“In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 56 countries, encompassing a significant majority of the world’s people, have high or severe restrictions on religious freedom.”
Blinken said Iran continues to intimidate, harass, and arrest members of minority faith groups, including Baha’i, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Sunni and Sufi Muslims.
In his remarks, Secretary Blinken highlighted the following situations:
In Burma, the military coup leaders are among those responsible for ethnic cleansing and other atrocities against Rohingya, most of whom are Muslim, and other religious and ethnic minorities around the world.
In Russia, authorities continue to harass, detain, and seize property of Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as members of Muslim minority groups on the pretense of alleged extremism.
In Nigeria, courts continue to convict people of blasphemy, sentencing them to long-term imprisonment or even death. Yet the government has still not brought anyone to justice for the military’s massacre of hundreds of Shia Muslims in 2015.
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SOURCE: Assist News Service