Religious freedom, like every human right, is universal, declared U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the release of the annual State Department International Religious Freedom Report.
“All people, everywhere, are entitled to it no matter where they live, what they believe, or what they don’t believe. . . . .Religious freedom can’t be fully realized unless other human rights are respected, and when governments violate their people’s right to believe and worship freely, it jeopardizes all the others.”
For many people around the world, religious freedom is still out of reach. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 56 countries have high or severe restrictions on religious freedom.
The Iranian regime continues to intimidate, harass, and arrest members of minority faith groups, including Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and Sunni and Sufi Muslims.
In Burma, the military coup leaders are among those responsible for ethnic cleansing and other atrocities against Muslim Rohingya.
In Russia, authorities continue to harass, detain, and seize property of Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as members of Muslim minority groups on the pretense of alleged extremism.
Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world without a Christian church, though there are more than a million Christians living in Saudi Arabia.
And the People’s Republic of China broadly criminalizes religious expression and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocide against Muslim Uighurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang.
Some countries are taking steps toward increasing respect for religious freedom, said Secretary Blinken:
“Last year, the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan repealed apostasy and public order laws that had been used to harass members of religious minority groups. Uzbekistan’s government released hundreds of people who have been imprisoned because of their beliefs. . . .Turkmenistan released 16 Jehovah’s Witnesses who are conscientious objectors and refused to serve in the military.”
We will maintain America’s longstanding leadership on religious freedom, said Secretary Blinken, and continue to work with human rights advocates and religious communities to combat all forms of religiously motivated hatred and discrimination.