U.S. State Department releases 2020 International Religious Freedom Report
This week, the U.S. Department of State issued its annual report summarizing the status of religious freedom around the world, country by country. The report is required by the International Religious Freedom Act. You can browse the report or create a custom report consisting of the countries that interest you here.
The report is impressive and thorough. For each country, it offers religious demographic information, a description of the current protections for religious liberty under the law and under the government’s current practices, and it summarizes U.S. policy and engagement toward that country.
In his announcement accompanying the release, Secretary Anthony Blinken gave a stirring defense of the importance of protecting religious freedom for all:
Religious freedom is a human right; in fact, it goes to the heart of what it means to be human – to think freely, to follow our conscience, to change our beliefs if our hearts and minds lead us to do so, to express those beliefs in public and in private. This freedom is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…
…All people, everywhere, are entitled to it no matter where they live, what they believe, or what they don’t believe. Religious freedom is co-equal with other human rights because human rights are indivisible. Religious freedom is not more or less important than the freedom to speak and assemble, to participate in the political life of one’s country, to live free from torture or slavery, or any other human right. Indeed, they’re all interdependent. 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. And religious freedom is a key element of an open and stable society. Without it, people aren’t able to make their fullest contribution to their country’s success. And whenever human rights are denied, it ignites tension, it breeds division.
In too many countries around the world, people lack even the most basic religious liberty protection, some facing unspeakable violence and oppression. The report details the plight of Christians, Jews, Sunni Muslims, and other religious minorities in Iran; of Rohingya Muslims in Burma; of Uyghurs in China, to name just a few. The denial of fundamental rights of conscience and worship anywhere in the world casts a heavy shadow on our commitment to human rights and soul freedom. This annual report is an important, if sobering, reminder of the real dangers faced by so many in expressing their faith.
Within 180 days, the International Freedom Act requires the State Department also to release a list of those countries that are of particular concern for their egregious religious liberty violations. Stay tuned.