Yesterday Secretary of State John Kerry presented the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2014. This report is in its 17th year and holds the message that countries benefit when their citizens have religious freedom. Secretary Kerry emphasized that “the concept of religious freedom extends way beyond mere tolerance. It is a concept grounded in respect for the rights and beliefs of others.” By publishing this report, the United States hopes to influence governments to honor the dignities of their citizens. At the end of his presentation, Secretary Kerry made three points:
- “First, as much as we oppose the actions of terrorists, we do not agree with governments that use those crimes as a pretext for prohibiting religious activities that are in fact nonviolent and legitimate. Those who misuse the terms “terrorist” and “extremist” are not fooling anybody, and trying to dictate an artificial conformity of religious expression is not a prescription for harmony”
- Second, the right to religious freedom is not contingent on having a large number of followers. Religious minorities – including those who profess no faith – should have the same rights as religious majorities, and that is a fundamental belief. “
- “And finally, I want to emphasize the importance and urgency of the work that is being carried out by Ambassador Saperstein and his office, including the addition of a new special advisor on religious minorities.”
The purpose of the Report is to give voice to oppressed peoples and to document when and where the universal human right to religious freedom has been violated. Every year, this report is used to help shape policy, conduct diplomacy, and inform assistance, training and resource allocation. This 2014 Report includes actions of “Non-State Actors, including rebel and terrorist organizations, who committed by far some of the most egregious human rights abuses and caused significant damage to the global status of respect for religious freedom.” The report notes that antisemitism continues to be a major problem around the world and there were several countries with increases in antisemitic incidents.
Interested parties can view previous years’ reports at this link. Translations of the reports are available through www.humanrights.gov The United States is not included in this report.
Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/17th-annual-international-religious-freedom-report