U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussein outlined several key findings from this year’s International Religious Freedom report.
“First, far too many governments continue to freely target faith community members within their borders,” said Ambassador Rashad.
“Russia, a Country of Particular Concern for the second year in a row, continues to target faith communities within its borders and beyond. Brave people of faith in Russia who dare to speak against its brutal war against Ukraine are targeted for repression. The People’s Republic of China seized, imprisoned, and banished predominantly Muslim Uighurs to re-education camps. They continue the repression of Tibetan Buddhists, Chinese Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners.”
In Afghanistan, members of communities that do not adhere to the Taliban’s narrow theology must hide their religious identity or flee for their lives. In Saudi Arabia, there have been recent moves to increase interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance. But publicly practicing any faith other than Islam remains illegal.
A second theme in the report is the increase of government restrictions on access to holy sites and places of worship, said Ambassador Rashad:
“We have all seen the sad pictures of Ukraine’s civilians sifting through the rubble of their beautiful and most historic churches destroyed by Russia’s brutal war of aggression. Uighurs have witnessed the PRC Government destroy or repurpose their mosques or cemeteries. Authorities also destroy the monasteries of Tibetan Buddhists and expelled monks and nuns.”
Third, many countries continue to legislate and enforce apostasy, blasphemy, and anti‑conversion laws, noted Ambassador Rashad:
“These laws are direct attacks on the right to freedom of religion or belief. They criminalize religious expression and justify discrimination and harassment against members of minority religious groups or others who do not conform with the dictates of the approved theology.”
Fourth, the report shines a light on the need for governments to ensure equal access to primary services such as education. In Afghanistan, the Taliban in the name of religion continues to rob women and girls of this fundamental right.
“Religion can be such a powerful force for good in the world. Societies who seek to restrict it or use it to harm others cannot achieve their full potential,” warned Ambassador Hussein. “We vow to redouble our efforts to ensure greater respect for freedom of religion or belief for everyone, everywhere.”