Promoting religious freedom is a central objective of American foreign policy. It's grounded in our commitment to advance respect for fundamental liberties around the world. Freedom to hold or not hold religious beliefs without government interference is a basic human right. This principle has played a vital role in American history and culture, as well as those of nations throughout the globe. Indeed, it is articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
To better inform its policies toward other nations, the U.S. State Department annually prepares a report on the status of religious freedom around the globe. Its purpose is to recognize government actions that protect and promote religious freedom, and to cite those actions that contribute to religious repression or intolerance.
In Burma, religious groups registered with the government are allowed to worship as they choose, but other sects and denominations are tightly controlled despite provisions in the country's constitution prohibiting religious discrimination. For example, authorities monitor the activities of religious groups and systematically restrict efforts by Buddhist clergy to promote human rights and political freedom. Many monks arrested in the violent crackdown that followed the September 2007 prodemocracy demonstrations still remain in jail. Islamic and Christian groups, meanwhile, are barred from building new places of worship, and members of the Muslim Rohingya sect are so restricted that many have fled the country.
The U.S. government has repeatedly made an effort to express its concerns over religious liberties with Burma's military leaders, but these requests have been ignored. For these and other reasons, Burma has been designated as a Country of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act for its severe violations of religious freedom.
This year's religious freedom report reaffirms the U.S. government's engagement with faith-based groups around the world to address the issues that affect them. Our embassies will continue to support interfaith dialogue and will work with religious groups across a full range of issues. We will also continue to speak out against the curtailing of religious liberty wherever and whenever it occurs.