Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, May 30, 2014.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), of which I am Chairman, released its 2014 Annual Report on April 30. As in previous years, the report analyzed the condition of religious freedom in numerous countries, highlighting abuses of religious freedom and offering recommendations to President Obama, the U.S. State Department, and Congress on how best to respond to such violations. However, this year’s report comes with an added element: an analysis of the United States’ policy on religious freedom over the past fifteen years and how to improve it in the future.
Based on this broader analysis, the report concluded that, as a nation and society, the United States must do more to promote freedom of religion or belief overseas. Such promotion is crucial today since, by any measure, religious freedom is under serious and sustained pressure across much of the globe. According to the most recent Pew study on the subject, more than three-quarters of the world’s population lives in countries in which religion is restricted in significant ways, either by the government or by societal actors.
Behind this statistic is the reality of deep human suffering. When religious freedom is abridged, real people—as well as their families, communities, and countries—pay a price, losing their liberty and, sometimes, their lives. Whether their names are etched on gravestones or their faces stare at us from behind prison bars, we must never forget these people…