Responding to the U.S. State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says "religious freedom is under threat."
Every year, the U.S. State Department prepares a comprehensive review of the status of religious freedom in countries and territories around the world.
Ms. Clinton says she is troubled by what we see happening in many, many places.
In her report she says, "Religious freedom is under threat from authoritarian regimes that abuse their own citizens. It is under threat from violent extremist groups that exploit and inflame sectarian tensions. It is under threat from the quiet but persistent harm caused by intolerance and mistrust which can leave minority religious groups vulnerable and marginalized."
The annual report recommends eight countries be re-designated as countries of particular concern – Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.
In her opening remarks Clinton said, "We received reports from China of government harassment of Tibetan Buddhists, house-church Christians and Uighur Muslims. And several European countries have placed harsh restrictions on religious expression. These infringements on religious freedom strain the bonds that sustain democratic societies."
Christian groups are condemning the Defamation of Religions Resolution that will be proposed at the UN General Assembly in New York City late this fall.
Ms. Clinton said of the resolution, "Some people propose that to protect religious freedom, we must ban speech that is critical or offensive about religion. We do not agree. The Defamation of Religions Resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council again this year, and now pending before the General Assembly, reflects the other view. And the United States joins in all nations coming together to condemn hateful speech, but we do not support the banning of that speech."
The report also recommends that the State Department designate five additional “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, under IRFA for egregious violations of religious freedom – Iraq, Nigeria,Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
Speaking of religious freedoms in the U.S. Clinton said, "Here in our own country, religious people, people of faith, have played a key role in many of our most important reform movements, from the abolition of slavery to the modern-day campaigns against human trafficking and forced labor. When the work of these communities is constrained or blocked, we all lose out, regardless of our particular beliefs."
She concluded her report by saying, "The United States will continue to advance religious freedom around the world as a core element of U.S. diplomacy. And we will continue to speak out against the curtailing of religious liberty wherever and whenever it occurs."