Holding Persecutors of Religious Freedom to Account

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Holding Persecutors of Religious Freedom to Account

On June 21, 2019, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo released the State Department’s 2018 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. The report, mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, represents the United States’ historic role in preserving and advocating for religious freedom around the world. The report annually tracks countries and assesses the degree to which they have or have not respected this fundamental human right.

In his remarks, Secretary Pompeo outlined what he called “glimmers of progress” being made around the world in places like Turkey, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. For example, he shared, “

In Uzbekistan, much work still remains to be done, but for the first time in 13 years, it’s no longer designated as a Country of Particular Concern. This past year, the government passed a religious freedom roadmap. Fifteen hundred religious prisoners have been freed, and 16,000 people that were blacklisted for their religious affiliations are now allowed to travel.” 

Secretary Pompeo also noted that the report exposed a chilling array of abuses committed by oppressive regimes, violent extremist groups, and even fellow citizens sharing stories from Iran, Russia, China, and Burma. The Secretary stated, “For all those that run roughshod over religious freedom, I’ll say this: The United States is watching and you will be held to account.”

The Secretary emphasized that this year’s report is important because it will inspire many productive conversations leading up to the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. In support of the United States commitment to defending religious liberty, the U.S. Department will host the second ministerial from July 16-18. The United States will join other likeminded governments, religious communities, and civil society leaders to reaffirm the international community’s commitment to religious freedom and identify concrete ways to advance shared goals.

Advancing religious freedom is a core pillar of the United States’ National Security Strategy. As it clearly states, “Our founders understood religious freedom as a gift from God to every person and a fundamental right for a flourishing society.” The Report on International Religious Freedom and Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom demonstrate the United States’ firm commitment to giving voice to those seeking to live their lives peacefully in accordance with their conscience.

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