The religious freedom policy mandated by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act has now been in operation for fifteen years. Notwithstanding the hard work of the State Departments Office of International Religious Freedom, it would be difficult to name a single country where that policy has reduced persecution or increased freedom. In most of the countries into which the United States has in recent years poured blood and treasure”Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia in particular”freedom is on the decline, persecution on the rise.
The basis of Americas support for religious freedom abroad is the assertion that religious freedom is not only a good in itself but one that also advances our national interests. In approximately seventy countries, persecution and restrictions on religion are severe. That list includes virtually all the nations whose internal stability, economic policies, and foreign policies are of substantial concern to the United States, including China, Indonesia, Russia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iraq, as well as Egypt, Libya, and most of the nations comprising what was once called the Arab Spring. In many of these countries, the lack of religious freedom has led to religious conflict and has increased social, economic, and political instability.