On October 14, 2015, Secretary Kerry submitted the 2014 International Religious Freedom Report to the United States Congress. Now in its 17th year, this congressionally-mandated Report comprises almost 200 distinct reports on countries and territories worldwide and continues to reflect the United States’ commitment to, and advancement of, the right of every person to freedom of religion or belief. The Report is available at www.State.gov and www.HumanRights.gov.
In 2014, non-state actors committed some of the world’s most egregious abuses of religious freedom and other human rights. Government failure, delay, and inadequacy in combatting these groups often had severe consequences for people living under significant and dire restrictions on, and interference with, their exercise of freedom of religion. Other concerning trends over the year included significant increases in the number of recorded anti-Semitic incidents, and increasing restrictions on religious liberty imposed under the pretext of combatting terrorism and violent extremism.
Non-State Actors’ Suppression of Religious Freedom
In the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia, a range of non-state actors including terrorist organizations, set their sights on destroying religious diversity. Members of religious minorities were disproportionately affected. In these regions, religious intolerance and hostility, often toxically mixed with political, economic and ethnic grievances, frequently turned violent, resulting in death, injuries, and displacement.
Government Violations, Abuses, and Restrictions of Religious Freedom
The 2014 Report notes a continuation of many restrictive governmental policies affecting religious freedom including laws criminalizing religious activities and expression, the threat and enforcement of blasphemy and apostasy laws, prohibitions on conversion or proselytizing, and stringent or discriminatory application of registration requirements for religious organizations.
Combatting Terrorism and Violent Extremism as Justification for Restrictions on Religious Practice
In numerous authoritarian countries around the world, regimes co-opted the language of preventing and countering terrorism and countering violent extremism in their efforts to neutralize and repress political opposition emanating from peaceful religious individuals or groups.
Positive Developments in 2014
While the IRF report aims to shed light on a broad range of limitations on the exercise of religious freedom, it also seeks to highlight positive actions taken by some governments and civil society to provide greater protections for religious minorities and to take measures to ensure the human rights of individuals to worship, practice, learn, teach, and believe, or not believe – according to their own conscience. Across the globe, religious, and civil society groups, as well as interfaith coalitions took steps to promote greater respect for religious beliefs, practices and diversity.
Read the Report at state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/ and HumanRights.gov/reports.
For more information, please contact Chanan Weissman at 202-647-4043 or email@example.com or DRL-Press@state.gov. Learn more about U.S. government engagement on international religious freedom at www.HumanRights.gov, and by following Ambassador-at-Large David Saperstein on Twitter: @AmbSaperstein.