The State Department yesterday released its annual International Religious Freedom Report for the year 2011. From Foreign Policy’ s overview :

The report highlighted the deteriorating situation in China, whose government continued to increase restrictions on religious practice for Tibetan Buddhist monks in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas . . .

Other designated “Countries of Particular Concern” included Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Burma, also known as Myanmar . . .

In Egypt, where the population democratically elected an Islamist government, the country’s post-Mubarak transition remains tenuous, as Coptic Christians still face persecution. On October 9, for example, hundreds of demonstrators — mostly Copts — were  attacked  by Egyptian security forces in the Maspiro area of Cairo.


In Iran, meanwhile, the Christian pastor (and convert from Islam) Youcef Nadarkhani remains in prison . In addition to the persecution of Tibetan Buddhists and Christians, the report warns of a “rising tide of anti-Semitism” worldwide.

At a press briefing  to mark the release of the report, Suzan Johnson Cook, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, said:

Freedom of religion is not just an American right but the right of all people. It goes hand in hand with freedom of expression, freedom of speech and assembly, and when religious freedom is restricted, all these rights are at risk. And for this reason, religious freedom is often the bellwether for other human rights. It’s the canary in the coal mine.

In light of the Obama administration’s record on religious liberty here in the U.S. — a spotty one, though of course it doesn’t rival abuses worldwide — it seems she spoke better than she knew.

Articles by Anna Sutherland

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