State Department Releases International Religious Freedom Report
U.S. Government Highlights Increasing Persecution Around the World
05/13/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Yesterday, the U.S. Department of State published their International Religious Freedom (IRF) Report for 2020, outlining the status of religious freedom and persecution around the world. In the report, the State Department condemned countries like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and China for their continued abuses and ensured that the United States would continue to address religious freedom issues abroad.
During a press conference on the publication, Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted the importance of the report. “Religious freedom is a human right; in fact, it goes to the heart of what it means to be human,” said Secretary Blinken. “Religious freedom, like every human right is universal. All people, everywhere, are entitled to it no matter where they live, what they believe, or what they don’t believe.”
One country of note in the report was India, which was recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to be designated as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for religious freedom violations. Although the State Department declined to make such a CPC designation for the South Asian country, the IRF Report highlighted continued persecution in India. The State Department cited International Christian Concern (ICC) in its discussion of the effects of police corruption and COVID-19 lockdowns on religious minorities.
“According to the NGO International Christian Concern, the COVID-19 lockdowns likely reduced persecution in Uttar Pradesh, but reported attacks against Christians increased once pandemic restrictions eased,” read the report.
Additionally, the IRF Report outlined religious freedom concerns in Turkey, a key ally that the Biden administration has begun to pressure regarding its treatment of Christians. Specifically, the report pointed to outlets like ICC that have been covering the continued issuance of entry bans for long-time Turkish residents affiliated with Protestant churches in Turkey, many of which are still pending in the court system.
One of the most extensive sections in the report covered China, which outlined religious freedom abuses throughout the country against a variety of religious groups. In particular, the State Department raised the plight of the Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC), referencing ICC’s reports regarding raids conducted by the Chinese government following church services. This harassment has continued through this month, when authorities arrested an ERCC pastor following a funeral service last week.
Matias Perttula, Director of Advocacy at ICC, celebrated the release of the report from the State Department. “We welcome the release of the State Department’s 2020 IRF Report in emphasizing the United States’ commitment to promoting religious freedom around the world. Persecution persists in so many countries today and more work needs to be done to push back against forces that continue to restrict the foundational right of freedom of religion. ICC looks forward to continuing to work with the State Department on this vital issue.”