The State Department recently released its 2021 International Religious Freedom Report.
In introductory remarks, Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that respect for religious freedom is not only a fundamental right, it is also a vital foreign policy priority.
In his remarks, Secretary Blinken highlighted several examples of progress on religious freedom. He noted that Morocco launched an initiative to renovate Jewish heritage sites and to include Jewish history in the Moroccan public school curriculum. He also highlighted Taiwan, where it is now easier to report employers who refuse to give their workers a weekly rest day in order to attend religious services.
The Secretary also commented on areas where religious freedom issues remain problematic and where more work must be done.
Secretary Blinken called out the Burmese military in March, in a public determination that members of Burma’s military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against predominantly Muslim Rohingya.
He noted that in Eritrea, only four religious groups are permitted to practice their faith freely.
The Secretary said the People’s Republic of China continues its ongoing genocide, crimes against humanity, and repression of predominately Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups:
“Since April 2017, more than 1 million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and others have been detained in internment camps in Xinjiang. The PRC continues to harass adherents of other religions that it deems out of line with Chinese Community Party doctrine, including by destroying Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, and Taoist houses of worship and by erecting barriers to employment and housing for Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners.
Secretary Blinken also spoke about Afghanistan, where religious freedom conditions have deteriorated dramatically under the Taliban, particularly as they crack down on the basic rights of women and girls to get an education, to work, to engage in society.
Finally, Secretary Blinken noted that the rights of religious minorities are under threat in communities around the world.
In India, attacks on people and places of worship are increasing; in Vietnam, authorities harass members of unregistered religious communities; in Nigeria, several state governments are using antidefamation and blasphemy laws to punish people for expressing their beliefs.
“The United States will continue to stand up for religious freedom around the world,” said Secretary Blinken. “We’ll keep working alongside other governments, multilateral organizations,[and] civil society to do so.”