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Introduction


Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
November 17, 2010

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"Let us pledge our constant support to all who struggle against religious oppression and rededicate ourselves to fostering peace with those whose beliefs differ from our own."  -- President Barack Obama

"My Administration will continue to oppose growing trends in many parts of the world to restrict religious expression. Faith can bring us closer to one another, and our freedom to practice our faith and follow our conscience is central to our ability to live in harmony."  -- President Barack Obama

This Report on International Religious Freedom is part of the United States' support for religious freedom and tolerance throughout the world. The front cover of this report shows a Hindu temple in Guyana and a mosque in Tokyo, examples of the diversity of religious expression globally. Today many governments and societies grapple with rising religious diversity even as they are called upon to protect the fundamental rights of individuals in all communities who seek to practice their cherished religious beliefs.

Given the importance of religious freedom and religious tolerance, the 2010 Report addresses both government policy and societal attitudes in nearly 200 countries and territories. Governments and civil society must work in tandem to respect the rights of every person in matters of conscience and to ensure respect for religious freedom and tolerance. Governments have a duty to provide a legal framework in which all individuals can practice their faith openly and participate fully and equally in public life.

This Report documents the worst forms of religious repression. At the same time, it recognizes and praises the many countries worldwide that promote religious freedom and tolerance. We welcome the Lao government’s written agreement with the Institute for Global Engagement to provide training on religious freedom for government officials and religious leaders. Lebanon is finalizing the restoration of the Maghen Abraham synagogue in Beirut that had been destroyed by shelling during the Lebanese Civil War. The Indonesian government hosted the first Indonesia-U.S. Interfaith Dialogue, bringing together religious leaders, scholars, students, and interfaith activists from both countries and the region. Much work remains, however, in these countries and many others throughout the world.

The publication of this Report coincides with increased discussion on the value of religious diversity in the United States. "It is a testament to the wisdom of our Founders," President Obama said at an Iftar dinner at the White House in August 2010, "that America remains deeply religious--a nation where the ability of peoples of different faiths to coexist peacefully and with mutual respect for one another stands in stark contrast to the religious conflict that persists elsewhere around the globe." The arrival of numerous faith communities to our shores--from Jews to Hindus, Baha'i to Buddhists--has made the United States one of the most diverse nations on earth. We remain guided by our founding ideals of liberty and equality. As President Obama stated, "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are."

The values of religious freedom are universal, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This report is an important tool in the effort to ensure respect for these values. The United States takes seriously its international commitments and, in the President’s words, "Our nation’s enduring commitment to the universal human right of religious freedom extends beyond our borders as we advocate for all who are denied the ability to choose and live their faith." We are convinced by reason and our own experience that an open environment for expression of all beliefs advances the common good in all nations, regardless of geography or demography. As Secretary Clinton put it, "religious freedom provides a cornerstone for every healthy society."

Michael Posner
Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor



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