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State Department releases annual report on international religious freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Everyone has “a stake in this fight” for religious freedom, said the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom, Sam Brownback.

“One person’s bondage is another person’s burden to break,” he told reporters May 29. “We’re all people with beautiful and undeniable human dignity. Our lives are sacred. Our right to choose the road our conscience takes is inalienable.”

Brownback joined U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a news conference to release the annual International Religious Freedom Report, which covers the period between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2017.

Pompeo also announced the United States will host the first ministerial meeting to be held aimed at advancing religious freedom around the world. It will take place July 25 and July 26 in Washington. He said it will provide an opportunity to “break new ground,” and will not just be a “discussion group.”

Among its findings the report noted:

– The plight of the Rohingya and the Kachin people in Myanmar. Brownback noted that he visited several of the refugee camps in Bangladesh about a month ago. “The situation is dire. We must do more to help them, as they continue to be targeted for their faith.”

– In North Korea, up to 120,000 political prisoners in “horrific conditions” in camps across the country, some have been imprisoned for religious reasons. The report said there were 1,304 cases of alleged religious freedom violations in the country last year.

– In Eritrea, the government “reportedly killed, arrested, and tortured religious adherents and coerced individuals into renouncing their faith.”

– Tajikistan continues to prohibit minors from even participating in any religious activities.

– Saudi Arabia does not recognize the right of non-Muslims to practice their religion in public and imprisons, lashes, and fines individuals for apostasy, blasphemy, and insulting the state’s interpretation of Islam.

– In Turkmenistan, individuals who gather for worship without registering with the government face arrest, detention, and harassment.

-In China Falun Gong adherents, Uighur Muslims and members of other religious minorities continue to be imprisoned; with many of them dying in custody.

Read more at Crux. 

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