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A Report that Tells Stories and Informs Policy

State Dept. Religious Freedom Report
State Dept. Religious Freedom Report

“We know the powerful change that’s possible when governments and civil society come together to stand up for … religious freedom,” said Ambassador Hussain.

A Report That Tells Stories and Informs Policy
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The information collected for the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom report is an example of data-based policymaking, said U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain at the document’s release:

“In this report’s pages are the stories of thousands of individuals who are in each way trying to live according to their own conscience.”

Ambassador Hussain highlighted the case of Hkalam Samson, a Baptist pastor who was unjustly detained because he advocated for religious freedom for everyone in Burma:

“Samson is among the many activists and religious leaders – including Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims - that the regime in Burma has targeted for brutal repression and imprisonment.”

The report also turned a spotlight on ongoing repression in China - against Muslim Uyghurs, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners.

Present at the release of the report was Falun Gong member Yuhua Zhang, now a U.S. resident, who was imprisoned and tortured in China and who eagerly seeks to be reunited with her husband still imprisoned for his religious beliefs.

The report also documents cases where violence is occurring at the societal level:

“In India, for example, Christian communities reported that local police aided mobs that disturbed worship services over accusations of conversion activities or stood by while mobs attacked them and then arrested the victims on conversion charges ... While in Nigeria, a mob stoned a Muslim man accused of blasphemy.”

But Ambassador Hussain also spoke of hope: “we know the powerful change that’s possible when governments and civil society come together to stand up for…religious freedom:”

“Asia Bibi is no longer in a jail in Pakistan facing a death sentence. Meriam Ibrahim and the daughter she gave birth in in a Sudanese jail are free. … Bishop Rolando Alvarez, while exiled from his home country of Nicaragua, is with his fellow priests at the Vatican. And after a perilous path out of Iran, Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi is now able to tell her story about her quest for freedom.”

“That’s what this work is all about,” said Ambassador Hussein, “and that’s why it is so important for this report to cast light on all those who are facing religious persecution around the world.”