Tuesday, November 08, 2005

United States Releases 2005 International Religious Freedom Report

United States Releases 2005 International Religious Freedom Report
"Countries of Particular Concern" include China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan

Secretary Rice at the State Department in Washington, November 8. (State Dept. photo - Janine Sides)

By Alexandra Abboud
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.S. Department of State released the seventh annual International Religious Freedom Report, which examines the status of religious freedom around the world.

The annual report to Congress, released November 8, is mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and seeks to examine barriers to religious freedom in 197 countries and territories. The report also notes countries in which conditions have improved and outlines U.S. actions to promote international religious freedom.

The 2005 report redesignates Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam as "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPC) for severe violations of religious freedom. The same countries were listed as CPCs in the 2004 report.

The report reviews countries’ commitments to religious freedom and examines barriers to the free practice of religion in several countries, including CPCs.

According to the report, Georgia, India, Turkmenistan and United Arab Emirates have showed “significant improvement” in the protection and promotion of religious freedom through modification of legal and social barriers.

Some countries cited in the report curtail religious freedom by controlling religious expression and practice. These countries “regard some or all religious groups as enemies of the state because of their religious beliefs or their independence from central authority.”

Other countries named in the report allow the free practice of religion for established, majority religions but curtail religious freedom of “minority or non-approved” religions. These governments are “hostile and oppressive” toward minority religions and implement policies that “demand adherents to recant their faith, cause religious group members to flee the country, or intimidate and harass certain religious groups, or have as their principal effect the intimidation and harassment of certain religious groups,” according to the report.

The report also identifies countries that restrict religious freedom through state neglect or discrimination against or persecution of minority religions, discriminatory legislation or policies prejudicial to certain religious practices and denunciations of certain religions by affiliating them with dangerous "cults" or "sects."

The report concludes with an overview of U.S. efforts to promote and support international religious freedom through public advocacy and support of active monitoring of religious freedom conditions.

“The pursuit of religious liberty supports other freedoms, including speech, assembly, and conscience,” according to the report. “When the cause of religious freedom is furthered, so is the pursuit of democracy.”

The full text of the 2005 report and previous reports are available on the State Department Web site. Excerpts of the 2005 report are also available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Persian, Russian and Spanish.

For more information, see International Religious Freedom.

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