U.S. sees “mixed picture” on world religious freedom
(Photo: CHristians pray during an anti-North Korea and pro-U.S. protest in Seoul, 3 Oct 2007/Han Jae-Ho)
The United States sees a mixed picture on world religious freedom, with progress in interfaith dialogue weighed against government repression and sectarian strife in many countries. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday unveiled the latest State Department report on global religious freedom, which particularly criticized Iran and North Korea among other countries for harsh limits on religious expression.
“It is our hope that the … report will encourage existing religious freedom movements around the world,” Clinton said, adding that all people should have the right to believe or not as they see fit.
The report tagged North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, China, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan among the worst offenders, placing them on a watch list put out earlier this year.
Michael Posner, the State Department’s top official for democracy and human rights, said President Barack Obama’s call this year for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims did not mean sidelining religious liberty. “Religious freedom is a fundamental right, a social good, a source of stability, and a key to international security,” Posner said in the introduction to the report.
Posner praised interfaith dialogue efforts promoted by Jordan, Spain and other countries. But religious repression and discrimination remained huge problems worldwide.
Clinton said she opposed efforts promoted by some Islamic countries to establish a global benchmark for what constitutes “defamation of a religion,” saying it could be an unacceptable intrusion on free speech rights. “The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faith will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions,” she said.
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Here is our Factbox summarising the main findings.
For the full International Religious Freedom Report, with links to each country section, click here.
For the full text of Clinton’s remarks, click here.