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The U.S. Commitment to Religious Freedom Abroad: Honoring International Religious Freedom Day


October 27, 2014 | USCIRF

WASHINGTON, D.C. -  The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today commemorates International Religious Freedom Day, marking the 16th anniversary of the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA).

By enacting IRFA, Congress and the President recognized that religious freedom matters.  Among its provisions, IRFA created an international religious freedom office in the State Department and the U.S. Commission on Intentional Religious Freedom (USCIRF), on which we serve, as an independent, bipartisan entity tasked with monitoring religious freedom worldwide and making policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State and Congress.

“Promoting international religious freedom not only is an integral part of our history and identity as a free nation, it also is a key human right recognized by international law and central to peace and stability worldwide,” said USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett.  “Events that have taken place since the passage of IRFA reinforce the importance of religious freedom as a core component of U.S. foreign policy deserving of a seat at the table with economic, national security, and other core U.S. concerns.

“Today is a day to not only remember international religious freedom, but a time to renew America’s commitment to advocating for religious freedom abroad,” said Dr. Lantos Swett.  “The U.S. needs to use every tool at its disposal, especially IRFA, in support of this vital human right and work with the international community to speak out against violations of religious freedom and serve as a voice of the voiceless around the globe.”

Earlier this year USCIRF released its 2014 Annual Report, the 15th since the Commission’s creation, that evaluated the past decade and a half of U.S. foreign policy on religious freedom and made recommendations for how to carry this work forward into the 21st century.  In addition, USCIRF’s Annual Report recommended the designation of eight nations to the State Department’s existing list of “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, including: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. (The State Department subsequently designated Turkmenistan a CPC.) USCIRF also recommended that the following countries be re-designated as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0613.