Hundreds of people walking along river (© Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The government of Burma forced 700,000 of the Rohingya Muslim minority to flee their country. Here Rohingya people try to cross the border into Bangladesh in 2017. (© Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo describes religious freedom as “a right belonging to every individual on the globe” and says the U.S. “stands with those who yearn for religious liberty.”

Each year, the State Department releases its International Religious Freedom Report describing the state of religious freedom in countries around the world.

This year marks the 21th anniversary of the passage of the Religious Freedom Act, which promotes religious freedom as an important U.S. foreign policy. The law created within the State Department the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, a position held since February 2018 by Sam Brownback. Brownback, a former U.S. senator and Kansas governor, is the highest-ranking U.S. official to serve in this role.

Women lighting church candles, with text overlaid (© Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)Pompeo emphasizes religious freedom’s central role in the history of the U.S. “Religious freedom was vital to America’s beginning,” he says. “Defending it is critical to our future.”

Brownback says the goal is to protect the freedom of conscience for all people.

“We report on what has occurred and been said. We don’t make judgement calls on what is worthy to report or not,” Brownback said. “We report it all.”

Brownback says the state of religious freedom in the world is dire: “We must move religious freedom forward — we must defend it in every corner of the globe.”

A version of this article was previously published on May 29, 2018.