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Department of State

Secretary Condoleezza Rice

Washington , DC

November 8, 2005

(2:23 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon. Hi there, how are you? Today, I have transmitted to Congress the 7th Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. Religious freedom is a constitutional right for Americans. It is also a universal human right, enshrined time and again in international law and declarations.

Our goal is to promote the fundamental right of religious freedom as a part of what President Bush calls “our agenda for a freer world, where people can live and worship and raise their children as they choose.”

Preparation of this report, which will be available on the State Department’s website, is an intensive, year-long effort led by Ambassador John Hanford and involving a wide cross-section of our Department, including our Office of International Religious Freedom, our regional bureaus and our many embassies abroad.

Production of the report is greatly assisted by the dedication and close collaboration of nongovernmental organizations and individuals around the world who are committed to documenting the status of religious freedom, often at risk to their own lives and their liberty.

The 2005 report covers 197 countries and territories. In some countries, we find that governments have modified laws and policies, improved enforcement or taken other concrete steps to increase and demonstrate respect for religious freedom. In far too many countries, however, governments still fail to safeguard religious freedom. Across the globe, people are still persecuted or killed for practicing their religion or even for just being believers.

This year, we have re-designated eight “Countries of Particular Concern” — Burma , China , the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , Eritrea , Iran , Saudi Arabia , Sudan and Vietnam . These are countries where governments have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom over the past year. We are committed to seeking improvements in each of these countries, improvements like those we have actually seen in Vietnam, which have been further advanced by agreement on religious freedom that our governments signed just this last May.

If Vietnam ‘s record of improvement continues, it would enable us to eventually remove Vietnam from our list of “Countries of Particular Concern.” Through this report, through our bilateral relationships and through our ongoing discussions with communities of faith around the world, America will defend the rights of people everywhere to believe and worship according to their own conscience. As President Bush has said, “Freedom of religion is the first freedom of the human soul. We must stand for that freedom in our country. We must speak for that freedom in the world.”…[Go To Full Story]