The International Religious Freedom Report was released May 29 and is the annual assessment of the state of religious freedom in the world.
The goal of the United States is to protect the freedom of conscience for all people, irrespective of their particular religion or beliefs. For example, that means protecting a Muslim, Buddhist, Falun Gong practitioner, or Christian in China and their ability to pray and live out their lives. “We all have a stake in this fight,” said Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.
The United States seeks to accomplish these goals by working with federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, Congress, and with other governments in order to advocate for those who need it most. And through State Department’s first ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in July, like-minded nations will gather together to develop concrete actions for promoting religious freedom globally.
There are a number of troubling religious freedom cases around the world. The United States continues to work to secure the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey who has been falsely accused of espionage and committing crimes on behalf of armed terror organizations. The references in the indictment to his religious activity is particularly troubling.
Ambassador Brownback expressed concern over reported instances of killings, deaths in prison, and imprisonment of individuals including members of minority religious groups in Eritrea. He also noted that in Tajikistan minors are prohibited from participating in any religious activities.
Saudi Arabia does not recognize the right of non-Muslims to practice their religion in public and imprisons, lashes, and fines individuals for apostasy, blasphemy, and insulting the state’s interpretation of Islam. In Turkmenistan, individuals who gather for worship without registering with the government face arrest, detention, and harassment.
The U.S. also remains very concerned about the situation in Pakistan, where some 50 individuals are imprisoned for blasphemy, according to civil society reports. At least seventeen are awaiting execution. And in Russia, authorities target peaceful religious groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, equating them with extremists or terrorists.
The United States looks forward to working with other governments, religious communities, and civil society partners to advance religious freedom around the world.