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Religious Freedom

2008 Annual Report on International Religious FreedomThe Office of International Religious Freedom has the mission of promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy. Headed by Ambassador-at-Large John Hanford for International Religious Freedom, its Office Director and staff monitor religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, recommend and implement policies in respective regions or countries, and develop programs to promote religious freedom.

Given the U.S. commitment to religious freedom, and to the international covenants that guarantee it as the inalienable right of every human being, the United States seeks to:

  • Promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right and as a source of stability for all countries;
  • Assist newly formed democracies in implementing freedom of religion and conscience;
  • Assist religious and human rights NGOs in promoting religious freedom;
  • Identify and denounce regimes that are severe persecutors of their citizens or others on the basis of religious belief.

The office carries out its mission through:

  • The Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. The report contains an introduction, executive summary, and a chapter describing the status of religious freedom in each of 195 countries throughout the world. Mandated by, and presented to, the U.S. Congress, the report is a public document available online and in book form from the U.S. Government Printing Office.
  • The designation by the Secretary of State (under authority delegated by the President) of nations guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom as "Countries of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (H.R. 2431) and its amendment of 1999 (Public Law 106-55).  Nations so designated are subject to further actions, including economic sanctions, by the United States.
  • Meetings with foreign government officials at all levels, as well as religious and human rights groups in the United States and abroad, to address problems of religious freedom.
  • Testimony before the United States Congress on issues of international religious freedom.
  • Sponsorship of reconciliation programs in disputes which divide groups along lines of religious identity. The office seeks to support NGOs that are promoting reconciliation in such disputes.
  • Programs of outreach to American religious communities.

  
Highlights
Department Releases International Religious Freedom Report
Secretary Rice delivers remarks on release of the Department's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. [State Dept. photo]Secretary Rice (Sept. 19): "Today, I have transmitted to Congress the 10th Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. ...Religious freedom is at the core of our nation, now as always. We are a country founded on the belief that all men and women are created equal, that as equals we enjoy certain universal and inalienable rights, and that among these are the right to live without oppression, to worship as we wish, and to think and speak and assemble without retribution." Full Text l Briefing by Amb. Hanford
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