U.S. Ambassador Says Religious Freedom Is Seriously Lacking for Three-fourths of World’s Population

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The U.S. State Department warned that religion-based terrorists as well as some governments across the globe are threatening the liberties of religious minorities.

“One of the best ways to deny these murderers their victory is by ensuring that those they have sought to destroy not only survive, but thrive,” said Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, announcing the 2015 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom on Tuesday (Aug. 10).

Though the report has often focused on serious violations of religious freedom by governments across the globe, Blinken said it also details the “major threat” by groups like Daesh (or the Islamic State group), al-Qaida, al-Shabab and Boko Haram.

“There is, after all, no more egregious form of discrimination than separating out the followers of one religion from another — whether in a village, on a bus, in a classroom — with the intent of murdering or enslaving the members of a particular group,” he said.

The document, in its 18th year, includes details of how almost 200 countries are faring in protecting the religious liberty of their citizens.

David Saperstein, ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, said 24 percent of the world’s countries — in which 74 percent of the world’s population lives — have serious restrictions on religious freedom, based on government policies or hostile acts by individual organizations or societies.

He highlighted the report’s emphasis on laws around the globe about blasphemy and apostasy: “No one region, country or religion is immune to the pernicious effects of such legislation.”

The report notes that people are imprisoned with death sentences in Mauritania and Pakistan for allegedly criticizing the Prophet Muhammad or desecrating the Quran, while Saudi Arabia has overturned a poet’s death sentence for apostasy charges but he was instead sentenced to eight years in prison and 800 lashes.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Adelle M. Banks