Pompeo: Attack on religious freedom anywhere is affront to freedom everywhere

Police officers pushing women during protest (© Guang Niu/Getty Images)
Chinese police clash with Uighur protesters in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, in 2009. (© Guang Niu/Getty Images)

The United States champions religious freedom as a cherished American value and unalienable right. Yet, this fundamental right is threatened around the world.

“We will not sit back as individuals are killed, jailed, harassed, or tortured for their faith,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in a statement commemorating International Religious Freedom Day on October 27. “We will stand with and for all those seeking to live out the dictates of their faiths.”

This year marks the 21st anniversary of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act that made promoting religious freedom around the world a central focus of U.S. foreign policy.

The founders of the United States viewed religious freedom as a first freedom — not a creation of the state, but an unalienable birthright of human beings.

Two women standing near pole on which "May Peace Prevail On Earth" is printed (© Mel Evans/AP Images)
Members of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, an organization of Muslim and Jewish women, stand in New Jersey near a pole that says “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” (© Mel Evans/AP Images)

More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where there are high or severe restrictions on religious freedom, including China and Iran.

Religious freedom is not only vital for individuals and families, but is also a cornerstone of successful societies. “A government can never reach its full potential if individuals within its borders are marginalized or oppressed,” Pompeo said in the October 27 statement.