2008 International Religious Freedom Report

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Preface, Introduction, and Executive Summary of the U.S. Department of State’s 2008 International Religious Freedom Report. This report includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. To view complete Country Reports, visit: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2008/index.htm
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  PrefaceInternational Religious Freedom Report 2008Why the Reports are PreparedThe Department of State submits this report to the Congress in compliance withSection 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The lawprovides that the Secretary of State, with the assistance of the Ambassador atLarge for International Religious Freedom, shall transmit to Congress an AnnualReport on International Religious Freedom supplementing the most recent HumanRights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect tomatters involving international religious freedom. How the Reports are PreparedU.S. embassies prepare the initial drafts of these reports, gathering informationfrom a variety of sources, including government and religious officials,nongovernmental organizations, journalists, human rights monitors, religiousgroups, and academics. This information gathering can be hazardous, and U.S.Foreign Service Officers regularly go to great lengths, under trying and sometimesdangerous conditions, to investigate reports of human rights abuse, to monitorelections, and to come to the aid of individuals at risk because of theirreligious beliefs.The Office of International Religious Freedom collaborated in collecting andanalyzing information for the country reports, drawing on the expertise of otherDepartment of State offices, religious organizations, other non-governmentalorganizations, foreign government officials, representatives from the UnitedNations and other international and regional organizations and institutions, andexperts from academia and the media. In compiling and editing the country reports,the Office of International Religious Freedom consulted with experts on issues ofreligious discrimination and persecution, religious leaders from a wide variety offaiths, and experts on legal matters. The office’s guiding principle was to ensurethat all relevant information was assessed as objectively, thoroughly, and fairlyas possible.A wide range of U.S. government departments, agencies, and offices will use thereport to shape policy; conduct diplomacy; inform assistance, training, and otherresource allocations; and help determine which countries have engaged in ortolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom, otherwise knownas Countries of Particular Concern.A Word on UsageWhen this report states that a government generally respected the right ofreligious freedom over the reporting period, this phrase signifies that thegovernment attempted to protect religious freedom in the fullest sense. Generallyrespected is thus the highest level of respect for religious freedom assigned bythis report. The phrase generally respected is used because the protection andpromotion of religious freedom is a dynamic endeavor; it cannot be statedcategorically that any government fully respected this right over the reportingyear, even in the best of circumstances.AcknowledgementsThe 2008 report covers the period from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008, and  reflects a year of dedicated effort by hundreds of Foreign Service and CivilService Officers in the Department of State and U.S. missions abroad. We thank themany Foreign Service Officers at our embassies and consulates abroad formonitoring and promoting religious freedom, and for chronicling in detail thestatus of religious liberty. In addition to their efforts, we acknowledge thediligent labor and tireless commitment to religious freedom of those within theOffice of International Religious Freedom whose work made this report possible:Clarissa Adamson, Nasreen Badat, Judson Birdsall, Mary Anne Borst, Randy Brandt,Natalia Buniewicz, Barbara Cates, Keeley Chorn, Warren Cofsky, A. Jack Croddy,Doug Dearborn, Daniel DeVougas, Lauren Diekman, Lauren Doll, Augustine Fahey,Carrie Flinchbaugh, Albert T. Gombis, Hakim Hasan, Nancy Hewett, Victor Huser,Emilie Kao, Justin Kern, Gwendolyn Mack, Safia Mohamoud, Joannella Morales, FatemaMunis, Aaron Pina, David Rodearmel, Abigail Skeans, Lauren Smith, H. Knox Thames,Alexandra Tovar, Gregory Trunz, Raizza Ty, and Jessica Vu. The work of all ofthese individuals advances the cause of freedom, ensures accuracy in ourreporting, and brings hope to repressed people around the world.rIntroductionIIInternational Religious Freedom Report 2008IIEveryone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this rightincludes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or incommunity with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or beliefin teaching, practice, worship and observance.--Article 18, Universal Declaration of Human Rights--The right to freedom of religion is under renewed and, in some cases, increasingassault in many countries around the world. More than one-half of the world'spopulation lives under regimes that severely restrict or prohibit the freedom oftheir citizens to study, believe, observe, and freely practice the religious faithof their choice. Religious believers and communities suffer both government-sponsored and government-tolerated violations of their rights to religiousfreedom.--International Religious Freedom Act of 1998--This year marks the anniversary of two great documents for religious freedom --the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1998 InternationalReligious Freedom Act. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration has now, for sixdecades, served as a standard by which to measure governments' respect for genuinereligious freedom, while at the same time standing as a beacon of hope to thosesuffering persecution and harassment. Ten years ago, the passage of theInternational Religious Freedom Act brought new emphasis and structure toAmerica's age-old priority of promoting religious freedom. Much good has come ofthis intensified focus. Countless people of faith have enjoyed new-found freedoms,and government policies on religion have improved in some nations. Yet, despitesuch progress, the description of conditions quoted above from the Act stillprovides an accurate picture of the situation of religious freedom in too manycountries around the world.cBecause of the ongoing infringement of religious freedom and continuing instancesof outright persecution, the United States Government steadfastly promotes therespect of this universal human right. The International Religious Freedom Actreinforced the priority of this critical foreign policy objective by creating at  the U.S. Department of State the position of Ambassador at Large for InternationalReligious Freedom and the Office of International Religious Freedom, and bymandating the annual issuance of this report. With these and other tools for theadvocacy and protection of religious freedom, the United States encouragescompliance with international commitments and obligations, condemns violations ofreligious freedom, and fosters respect for religious freedom as a fundamentalright of all people.rThe 2008 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom is one of the mostvisible products of this ongoing effort, and it serves as a testament ofcooperation among scores of State Department officers at embassies and consulatesaround the world, in regional and functional bureaus, and in the Office ofInternational Religious Freedom, all of which have worked tirelessly to compilethis comprehensive document. Exceeding 800 pages in length and covering 198countries and territories, the Annual Report is an unrivaled compendium. However,the work would not be possible without the vital contributions of religiousgroups, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals who have dedicated theirlives to the defense of human dignity. The ongoing support of the U.S. Congress isalso deeply appreciated. In short, we view the Annual Report as an extension ofsupport from the American people to those who silently struggle for theirreligious rights all over the world.rThe coinciding anniversaries of the International Religious Freedom Act and theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights remind us of the universality of the humanrights these documents protect. Paramount to the issue of religious freedom isArticle 18 of the Universal Declaration, which protects the internal right tobelieve, the external right to worship and share, the individual right to choose,and the personal right to do so without fear of government intervention or harm.Notably, it was Charles Malik, an Arab diplomat from Lebanon, who in 1948, alongwith Eleanor Roosevelt, played a critical role in the formulation of this article.Later Malik said that the Universal Declaration reminds every person that,L…he is born free and equal in dignity and rights with his fellow men, that he isendowed by nature with reason and conscience, that he cannot be held in slavery orservitude, that he cannot be subjected to arbitrary arrest, that he is presumedinnocent until proved guilty, that his person is inviolable, that he has thenatural right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression.nnIn view of the global consensus on the importance of religious freedom, the UnitedStates works to encourage all governments to uphold their internationalobligations and commitments without advocating a specifically American approach tothe issue. In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, religiousfreedom is protected under numerous international instruments, including theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Declaration on theElimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion orBelief, the Helsinki Accords, the European Convention for the Protection of HumanRights and Fundamental Freedoms, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights,and the American Convention on Human Rights. The relevant religious freedomsections of these important documents can be found in the appendix of this AnnualReport.While this year marks a decade of vigorous work under the International ReligiousFreedom Act and 60 years of international commitment to universal human rights, wecelebrate these anniversaries with a solemn awareness of the enormous work thatremains.rAs President Bush recently noted at a White House event to celebrate the tenthanniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act:  This legislation that we commemorate today builds on a tradition that defined ournation. After all, when the Founding Fathers adopted the Bill of Rights, the veryfirst liberty they enshrined was the freedom of religion. They recognized that themost basic freedom a man can have is the right to worship…We are blessed to livein a country where freedom is respected. [Yet] in too many countries, expressionsof freedom are silenced by tyranny, intolerance, and oppression.oOf course, the furtherance of religious freedom by no means lies solely in thehands of the United States Government, but is a goal shared by many othergovernments, by numerous religious and nongovernmental organizations, andespecially by those suffering on account of their beliefs.eHaving had the privilege now to present seven Annual Reports, I continue to beamazed by the bravery of individuals from around the world who stand up for theirbeliefs, who advocate for religious freedom, and who refuse to be silenced byintimidation and violence. It is these persons whom we seek to serve and for whomthis report is dedicated. It has also been my honor now, for more than 6 years, towork with an incredibly dedicated team of religious freedom advocates in theOffice of International Religious Freedom. The successes we have seen over thisperiod are a testament to their diligence.pMuch work remains, and because of the knowledge that millions of persons aredenied the right to believe, practice, and worship freely by their governments,the United States will continue steadfastly to pursue the establishment anddefense of religious rights for all people everywhere. It is our sincere wish thatour efforts, and those of others who labor in this cause, will give them a renewedsense of hope and, in time, contribute to the flourishing of this cherishedfreedom in all corners of the globe.John V. Hanford, IIIAmbassador at Large for International Religious FreedomAAExecutive SummaryEEInternational Religious Freedom Report 2008IIThe Annual ReportTThe purpose of this report is to record the status of respect for religiousfreedom in every country around the world during the most recent reportingperiod--July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008. Our primary focus is to document theactions of governments--those that repress religious expression, persecutebelievers, and tolerate violence against religious minorities, as well as thosethat protect and promote religious freedom. We also address societal attitudes onreligion and religious minorities and record positive and negative actions takenby nongovernmental actors. We strive to report fairly and accurately, withsensitivity to the complexity of religious freedom issues.ssReligious Freedom as a Core Objective of U.S. Foreign PolicyThe promotion of religious freedom for all is central to American identity and acore objective of U.S. foreign policy. Our advocacy for religious freedom isgrounded in our commitment to advance respect for human rights and fundamentalfreedoms worldwide. The right to believe or not to believe, without fear ofgovernment interference or restriction, is essential to human dignity, robust
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