State Department report shows dangers to religious freedom on the rise
Published: August 1, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A bomb attack in July that targeted Israeli tourists in Bulgaria and killed six is part of a trend, according to the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook released the findings at a press briefing July 30 at the U.S. State Department in Washington. The annual report covers the status of religious freedom in 199 countries and territories. It allows the Office of International Religious Freedom to monitor religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, and recommend policies that encourage religious freedom. Johnson Cook, ambassador at large for international religious freedom, pointed to eight countries that exhibited widespread religious persecution. They include a major U.S. Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia, and a major U.S. trading partner, China, as well as North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Myanmar and Uzbekistan. Authoritarian regimes in many countries were using religious persecution for political ends, said Johnson Cook, noting Russia and Uzbekistan have invoked national security as a pretext for restricting the rights of peaceful religious groups. Johnson Cook noted that religious freedom, especially in Arab Spring countries, was in flux and needed to be closely monitored. The report pointed to successes in Libya, where the interim constitution has for the first time included protections of free worship. However, in Egypt, there was a notable rise in anti-Semitism and sectarian violence against Coptic Christians. The report said the rise of technology has had an impact on religious relations around the globe. Social networks and mass communication have allowed protests of human rights violations to be more easily organized, but they also give governments the tools to more effectively persecute individuals.
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