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US releases 2020 International Religious Freedom Report

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Washington | May 13, 2021 1:14:06 AM IST
The United States on Wednesday (local time) released the 2020 International Religious Freedom Report, which offers a comprehensive review of the state of religious freedom in nearly 200 countries and territories around the world.

In a press briefing in the Department of State, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: "Religious freedom cannot be fully realised unless other human rights are respected, and when governments violate their people's right to believe and worship freely, it jeopardises all the others. And religious freedom is a key element of an open and stable society. Without it, people are not able to make their fullest contribution to their country's success. And whenever human rights are denied, it ignites tension, it breeds division."

The top US diplomat noted that for many people around the world this right is still out of reach, citing Pew Research Centre, which found that 56 countries, encompassing a significant majority of the world's people, have high or severe restrictions on religious freedom.

"Iran continues to intimidate, harass, and arrest members of minority faith groups, including Baha'i, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Sunni and Sufi Muslims. In Burma (Myanmar), the military coup leaders are among those responsible for ethnic cleansing and other atrocities against Rohingya, most of whom are Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minorities around the world," he said.

Blinken also said that Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world without a Christian church, though there are more than a million Christians living in Saudi Arabia.

"China broadly criminalises religious expression and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups," he added.

He also imposed sanctions on Yu Hui, former office director of the so-called Central Leading Group Preventing and Dealing with Heretical Religions, of Chengdu, for his involvement in gross violations of human rights.

The Secretary of State also found that some countries have taken positive steps forward on religious freedom, such as in Sudan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

The report covers government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and US policies to promote religious freedom around the world. The US Department of State submits the reports in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

Speaking on the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, Blinken said: "We are deeply concerned about what we're seeing there. Images that came out overnight are harrowing and the loss of any civilian life is a tragedy. I have asked Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr to go to the region immediately to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He will bring to bear his decades of experience and, in particular, he will urge on my behalf and on behalf of President Biden a de-escalation of violence."

"The United States remains committed to a two-state solution. This violence takes us further away from that goal. We fully support Israel's legitimate right to defend itself. We have condemned and I condemn again the rocket attacks in the strongest possible terms. We believe Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live with safety and security and we will continue to engage with Israelis, Palestinians, and other regional partners to urge de-escalation and to bring calm," he added.

The ongoing violence between Israel and Palestine marks a dramatic escalation of tensions linked to the potential eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem by Israeli settlers and access to one of the most sacred sites in the city, which is a key hub for Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Gaza's ministry of health said the overall death toll since the latest offensive began stood at 56, including 14 children. More than 300 others have been wounded, reported Al Jazeera.

Six Israelis, including one child, have also been killed in the ongoing clashes. (ANI)

 
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