Press Release: State Department Elevates Religious Freedom and Highlights Global Challenges in Annual International Religious Freedom Report

June 28, 2019, Washington, D.C.— The U.S. Department of State recently released its 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom highlighting the many threats to religious freedom globally, and the need to take action to protect this fundamental right for every person. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also announced the elevation of the Office of International Religious Freedom within the State Department. This announcement comes ahead of the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, July 16-18.

While citing “glimmers of progress” in a few areas, Secretary Pompeo said, “Our report exposes a chilling array of abuses committed by oppressive regimes, violent extremist groups, and individual citizens. For all those that run roughshod over religious freedom, I’ll say this: The United States is watching and you will be held to account.”

“As documented in the State Department’s report, global threats to religious freedom are dire. From China’s mass interment of Uyghur Muslims and arrests of Christian pastors, to attacks on Christian pilgrims in Egypt and the abuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan, the challenges are immense and often deadly,” said Thomas Farr, President of the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI).

Sam Brownback, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, said at the report launch that this administration has made “religious freedom a top foreign policy priority.” While citing what he called “the iron curtain of religious persecution,” still to be torn down, he also described “a grassroots movement for religious freedom…beginning to take hold around the world.”

Ambassador Brownback also highlighted the importance of the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. The State Department intends this global gathering of government and civil society leaders to be a platform for developing and coordinating strategies to address key religious freedom challenges. Alongside the three-day formal program, RFI and other civil society organizations will be hosting numerous side-events on related themes.

“There is a growing movement of organizations and governments that recognize the need for global action,” said Eric Patterson, Executive Vice President of RFI. “At RFI, we engage with governmental and NGO leaders, in the U.S. and abroad, providing sound arguments for religious freedom as a fundamental human right and integral to the security, stability, and prosperity of any society,” Patterson continued.

Media Contact:
Jeremy P. Barker

The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) works to secure religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. RFI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C.