In 1981, the United Nations established freedom of religion and belief as a fundamental right worldwide, though individual countries had established it long before that. But it wasn’t until 1998 that the International Religious Freedom Act was signed into law, with bipartisan support, and the protection and promotion of religious freedom was elevated as a key priority in U.S. foreign policy. The Internusaational Religious Freedom Act mandates the U.S. government, and by extension USAID, to support other governments in safeguarding religious freedom, while leading the global community in condemning religious freedom violations.
Today, we stand at a critical moment for that mission, as around the world many governments crack down on religious expression, discriminating against and attacking citizens based on their faiths. In the People’s Republic of China, the government has committed crimes against humanity and genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghur community, along with other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang. In Nicaragua, the Ortega-Murillo regime crackdown on the Roman Catholic Church has resulted in the harassment, forced exile, and imprisonment of Catholic priests and the closure of numerous faith-based organizations. In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s return to power has led many religious minorities into hiding, and led to the persecution of Christians, Baha’is, and those with differing interpretations of Islam. And around the world—including right here in the United States—anti-Semitism continues to stain our political and social discourse and result in horrific acts of violence.
Yet faith communities remain some of the most potent forces for change by promoting community welfare and basic rights. Recognizing this, USAID has supported civil-society and faith-based organizations as they work to expand access to health services, rehabilitate homes and communities, and provide legal and negotiation services to tens of thousands of people. The contributions of faith communities like these represent the possibilities of a world where people of all faiths, or no particular faith, can strive to promote the common good.
USAID remains committed to partnering with and alongside local faith-based and community organizations that work to promote religious pluralism and peace. Our Strategic Religious Freedom and International Religious Freedom Sector Council serves as a forum to share knowledge, coordinate actions, and advise on policy steps across Bureaus and Independent Offices to advance the Agency’s commitment to freedom of belief.
Today, we stand in solidarity with all those around the globe who experience grievous abuses of religious freedom and other human rights, and we reaffirm our commitment to creating a world where everyone is free to practice and express their beliefs.
Any questions concerning this notice may be directed to: The Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, firstname.lastname@example.org