October 27 marked the 22nd anniversary of International Religious Freedom Day, a testament to the fundamental human right of all human beings to freely practice the religion or belief of their choice, as enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The annual occasion was codified into law with the 1998 passage of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) following an overwhelmingly bipartisan initiative of the United States Congress to promote religious freedom as part of U.S. foreign policy and to advocate on behalf of individuals and groups persecuted beyond American borders because of their religious beliefs or affiliations.
“Today, we observe International Religious Freedom Day, a reminder that freedom of worship is a universal human right protected by the laws and Constitution of our nation,” said John Barsa, Acting Administrator of USAID on October 27. “Our work around the world has made it clear that countries that protect religious freedom tend to enjoy stronger economies, greater political stability, and more peaceful relations with their neighbors.”
Defending and upholding religious freedoms globally “has been a core tenet of U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance” since IRFA became law, said Barsa. “But there is much more work for us to do. Believers of nearly all faiths, including Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Bahá’ís, have faced increased religious oppression and persecution over the past decade.”
Since 2007, the restriction of religion through laws, policies and actions by government officials and violence and harassment by private individuals, organizations and groups has increased significantly around the world, according to the 10th annual report on worldwide religious restrictions issued in July 2019 by the Pew Research Center.
The latest data “shows that 52 governments—including some in very populous countries like China, Indonesia and Russia—impose either ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of restrictions on religion, up from 40 in 2007,” when Pew first began tracking the issue. The number of countries experiencing the “highest levels of social hostilities involving religion” stands at 56, up from 39 a decade earlier.
From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.
Religious freedom is a paramount concern, as expressed in the Creed of the Church of Scientology.
The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.