Administrator Samantha Power on International Religious Freedom Day

Press Release Shim

Speeches Shim

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Office of Press Relations

Today, we observe International Religious Freedom Day and affirm that everyone, everywhere, is entitled to the fundamental right to conscience, to the exploration of faith and thought, and the outward expression and manifestation of religious, or non-religious, convictions so long as they do not disrupt or threaten the rights and freedoms of others.

Like so many other fundamental rights, religious freedom is under serious threat around the world. Government restrictions involving religion have been rising for more than a decade, and the vast majority of countries in the world exhibit some form of government harassment against religious groups. The COVID-19 pandemic has also generated what the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief described as an alarming “upsurge” of scapegoating and misinformation targeting religious minorities in various regions.

Religious freedom is a human right that deserves an equal measure of attention and protection as all other human rights. Assaults on religious freedom threaten the foundations of society. Indeed, denying religious freedoms is associated with higher levels of social conflict and violence: countries with high government restrictions on religion are more than twice as likely to witness social conflict as those with low- or no restrictions. Evidence shows that defending and promoting the freedom of religion or belief, as well as related freedoms of expression and assembly, promotes peace, stability, and economic prosperity for all members of a society.

As we mark this important day, we look with grave concern upon assaults on religious freedom around the world. We reaffirm our condemnation of the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity of Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and of members of other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang. We also call attention to government crackdowns on LGBTQI+ affirming faith communities in Africa, continued discrimination and abuse facing Rohingya, bans on religious expression by Muslim women in Europe, the persecution of Christians, Yazidis, Baha’is and other religious minorities in the Middle East, and the global rise of antisemitism. USAID remains committed to working closely with civil society organizations and faith communities to combat religiously motivated hatred, violence, and discrimination.

On International Religious Freedom Day, we reaffirm our commitment to safeguarding international religious freedom, and working with partners to build more inclusive, equitable, and rights-respecting societies and institutions around the world.

Last updated: November 23, 2021

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