Annual Report Chronicles Key Trends in International Religious Freedom

Today the Secretary of State released the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report, the most comprehensive source of information on freedom of religion in the world. Respect for religious freedom is both a core American value and a universally acknowledged right enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As President Obama said, "As history repeatedly reminds us, freedom of religion, the protection of people of all faiths, and the ability to worship as you choose are critical to a peaceful, inclusive, and thriving society."

The International Religious Freedom Report documents where people live, think, pray, and speak freely and where, in contrast, governments limit those freedoms, abusing the rights of their people, violating international agreements, and diminishing the reputations of their own countries. The report highlights key trends such as the impact of political and demographic transitions on religious minorities and the effects of conflict on religious freedom. It documents an increased number of anti-Semitic acts, as well as anti-Christian and anti-Muslim sentiment and actions around the world. These acts are emblematic of the types of restrictions members of virtually all religious groups faced somewhere in the world.

Even as this report documents abuses of religious freedom, the events of 2011 also show that change is possible and suggests that countries whose constitution, laws, policies, and practices protect religious freedom and human rights will be the most vibrant and stable. We noted some improvements in religious freedom in 2011. Turkey returned various previously confiscated religious properties and has discussed reopening Halki Seminary. The transitions in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya hold a promise of greater religious freedom for all that we hope will be realized.

Unfortunately, as the report shows, governments continued to restrict religious freedom, often allegedly in response to conflict and to groups deemed “violent extremists.” Governments used blasphemy, apostasy, and defamation of religion laws to restrict religious liberty, constrain the rights of religious minorities, and limit freedom of expression, or they allowed members of civil society to abuse these laws for political or personal goals. Such restrictions contributed to societal intolerance in many countries.

A range of countries remained chronic and systemic violators of religious freedom in 2011. For example, in China, the government continued to severely restrict the religious freedoms of Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, members of Protestant Christian house churches, such as the Shouwang church in Beijing, and Catholics. The Iranian government continued to imprison leaders of the Baha'i community and Christian leaders such as Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Religious freedom simply does not exist in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, or Eritrea.

This year's report is available through a new searchable interface that can be accessed at You can also learn more about the U.S. government's engagement on international human rights issues at

Related Content:Remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Release of the 2011 International Religious Freedom Report



United States
July 30, 2012

Sean in the U.S.A. writes:

I cherish my own religious freedom as a gift of the sweetest kind. I believe that fostering such an ideal in all places of the world is a lofty but worthy goal. Thanks for posting.

July 31, 2012

W.W. writes:

Religion means unevolution

DADT for it

Richard C.
Tennessee, USA
August 2, 2012

Richard C. in Tennessee writes:

First Amendment Rights are violated by both the Left and the Right. If you treasure your faith, respect others. Remember The Golden Rule.

August 4, 2012

W.W. writes:

There is no conflict between the ideal of religion and the ideal of science, but science is opposed to theological dogmas because science is founded on fact. To me, the universe is simply a great machine which never came into being and never will end. The human being is no exception to the natural order. Man, like the universe, is a machine. Nothing enters our minds or determines our actions which is not directly or indirectly a response to stimuli beating upon our sense organs from without

when there are no fact supporting an ideology the machine generates internal conflict

July 30, 2012


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