U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the latest International Religious Freedom Report makes it clear that “too many people in our world are still being denied their basic human right of religious liberty”:
“Some suffer under totalitarian regimes, others under governments that deliberately target or fail to protect religious minorities from discrimination and violence. By shining a light on this issue, this report signifies America’s support for all who yearn to follow their conscience without persecution."
The report cites eight countries of particular concern: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Vietnam. John Hanford is U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. In Burma, he says, “the regime’s high level of overall repression includes severe violations of religious freedom”:
“Some religious believers, including a number of Buddhist monks, are imprisoned, and some Christian clergy face arrest and the destruction of their churches. The government has destroyed some mosques, and Muslims face considerable discrimination, including occasional state-orchestrated or [state-] tolerated violence.”
According to the U.S. State Department report, the Burmese military regime “imposes restrictions on certain religious activities and frequently abuses the right to freedom of religion.” The regime routinely denies religious freedom and also other basic human rights. Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. President George W. Bush says she is a courageous reformer:
“In the words of the Burmese democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi: ‘We do not accept the notion that democracy is a Western value. To the contrary, democracy simply means good government, rooted in responsibility, transparency, and accountability’.”
The U.S. will continue to speak out for democracy and against religious persecution in Burma and other countries.