Far too many people across the globe live under threat because of their religion or face heavy restrictions on their religious freedom, U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper said in a speech before the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Individuals from Christian, Yezidi, Shia, and other faith communities in Iraq are being threatened by ISIL. Members of Syrian faith communities face similar challenges, and have also been attacked and terrorized by a brutal regime. Bahais in Iran, Tibetan Buddhists in China, Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Rohingya Muslims in Burma are all victims of governmental or societal discrimination, harassment, persecution, or physical attacks. Meanwhile in Western Europe, there has been an increase in societal violence against Jews and Muslims.
The United States is very concerned about government restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, such as blasphemy and apostasy laws discriminatory regulations against minorities across South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and other laws around the world that restrict speech or professions of faith.
Ambassador Harper noted that governments and societies that respect freedom of religion are more likely to experience peace, stability, and economic prosperity. The opposite also holds true, he said, "when governments restrict the free exercise of religious freedom, the result is often unrest and violent extremism."
United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 provides a framework for promoting both freedom of religion and freedom of expression. The United States has contributed to the implementation of Resolution 16/18 worldwide by facilitating bilateral exchanges among experts to discuss best practices in this area. U.S. embassies around the world have reached out to their host governments to encourage their participation in these exchanges.
And as President Barack Obama has said, the United States "will remain committed to promoting religious freedom, both at home and across the globe. We urge every country to recognize religious freedom as both a universal right and a key to a stable, prosperous, and peaceful future."