U.S. stands with defenders of religious freedom

Religious freedom is a universal human right. The United States’ defense of that right includes issuing the International Religious Freedom report each year to assist those who protect this fundamental freedom.

On May 15, Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued the 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom and credited those who work to advance religious freedom, often at great personal risk.

“This report wouldn’t be possible without the contributions of our civil society partners around the globe who help to shine a spotlight on abuses and advocate for victims of religious persecution,” Blinken said. “We are grateful for their vital work.”

Defending freedom

He commended the Campaign for Uyghurs, the Uyghur Human Rights Project and other advocacy groups that document the genocide and crimes against humanity committed by the People’s Republic of China against Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.

In Burma, thousands of teachers of Muslim, Buddhist, Christian and other faiths continue to teach the value of human rights, despite the military regime’s ongoing repression of minorities, including the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority group.

Blinken hailed the bravery of Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, a lawyer exiled from Nicaragua, where the Ortega-Murillo regime has attacked the Catholic Church and its supporters. In 2022, Molina Montenegro exposed more than 160 attacks against the Catholic Church and its supporters, including desecrations and unjust arrests.

People praying in front of damaged statue in church (© Osealdo Rivas/AFP/Getty Images)
A Catholic priest leads prayers in August 2022 in front of an image of “Sangre de Cristo” that was burned in a July 31, 2020, fire at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua. (© Osealdo Rivas/AFP/Getty Images)

The annual report comprehensively reviews the status of religious freedom in nearly 200 countries and territories. It tracks violations and abuses of religious freedom as well as positive governmental or societal actions. The report also informs critical U.S. foreign policy decisions.

Expanding protections

The 2022 report highlights countries that took steps to protect religious freedom in 2022, including:

  • Brazil passing legislation that protects Indigenous and Afro-Brazilian faith communities from religious and racial intolerance.
  • Belgium formally recognizing and expanding freedoms for its Buddhist minority.
  • The Central African Republic special criminal court prosecution of cases of religious-based violence and other human rights violations against civilians since the coup in 2003.

“The United States will continue to stand with and support these brave advocates for religious freedom,” Blinken said. “We’ll keep advocating for religious freedom in countries where the rights are under attack, both publicly and directly in our engagement with government officials.”