2009 International Religious Freedom Report

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Preface, Introduction, and Executive Summary of the U.S. Department of State’s 2009 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/2009/index.htm.
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  PrefaceBureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and LaborInternational Religious Freedom Report 2009October 26, 2009Why 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 Usage  When 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 2009 report covers the period from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, andreflects 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, Ali Aghaebrahim, Sylvia Ayub, Nasreen Badat, Judson Birdsall, M.A. Borst, Alexandra Brewer, Mark Carlson, Barbara Cates, Warren Cofsky, CourtneyCook, Graham Couturier, Kate Dailey, Doug Dearborn, Kurt Donnelly, Brian Fabbi,Augustine Fahey, Nathan Godsey, A. T. Gombis, Nancy Hewett, Olivia Hilton, NathanHitchen, Victor Huser, Alicia Juskewycz, Emilie Kao, Justin Kern, Sarah Kim, PeterKovach, Gwendolyn Mack, Safia Mohamoud, Fidel Mahangel, Alexander McLaren,Joannella Morales, Sarah Nelson, Aaron Pina, David Rodearmel, Lana Salih, TarikaSethi, Andrea Sidari, Lauren Smith, and Abdelnour Zaiback. The work of all ofthese individuals advances the cause of freedom, ensures accuracy in ourreporting, and brings hope to repressed people around the world.Cover Photo CreditsAll cover images are copyright AP Photos.Members of the Jewish priestly caste wear prayer shawls as they perform the tri-annual blessing of the Jewish people by the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, 1996. (APPHOTO/Eyal Warshavsky)A Palestinian Muslim worshipper prays inside the Dome of the Rock Mosque duringthe second Friday prayers of the holy fasting month of Ramadan 2007. (APPhoto/Muhammed Muheisen)South Africa's Soweto Gospel Choir, performs in Johannesburg, South Africa, 2007.(AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)A woman prays in the St. Peter's church in Wadowice, southern Poland, 2005. (APPhoto/Czarek Sokolowski)  A Hindu child makes offerings during the Hindu festival of Deepavali at a templein Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2006. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)A Muslim offers a prayer outside a mosque during the fasting month of Ramadan inKuala Lumpur, 2002. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)A young Thai novice Buddhist monk lights a candle in Bangkok, Thailand, 2005. (APPhoto/David Longstreath)A man offers prayers at the Peace Park before the 60th anniversary of the atomicbombing in Nagasaki, southwestern Japan 2005. (AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa)A nun of Missionaries of Charity prays beside the tomb of Mother Teresa inCalcutta, India, 2003. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)Released by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labor,Office of International Religious Freedom in coordination with the Bureau ofPublic Affairs, October 2009IntroductionBureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and LaborInternational Religious Freedom Report 2009October 26, 2009Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together.--President Barack ObamaIn his landmark speech at Cairo University, President Obama articulated his visionfor a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world —arelationship based on mutual interest and mutual respect. Building stronger ties,he said, requires a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from eachother, to respect one another, and to seek common ground. This renewed engagementcompels us not to shirk from contentious issues but rather to face these tensionssquarely and work as partners to solve problems.The Department of State offers its Annual Report on International ReligiousFreedom in this spirit of dialogue and cooperation. Religion is a globalphenomenon; all countries face the challenges and opportunities religiousdiversity poses, and no country has a perfect record on religious freedom. AsAmericans we are rightfully proud of our own heritage of religious liberty;countless religious refugees have fled persecution in their homelands and foundsanctuary on our shores. But we are also painfully aware of our nation's pastmistreatment of certain minority groups. From the public execution of Quakers inmid-17th century Massachusetts Bay Colony to the expulsion of Mormons fromMissouri in 1838-39 to the discrimination many Muslim Americans felt following9/11, our society has long struggled to accommodate its religious diversity. Yetwe have learned from experience that we are enriched by a pluralism that isendorsed by government and embraced by society. Through the Annual Report and  other diplomatic efforts, we encourage all nations to protect religious freedomand promote religious tolerance for all groups and individuals. As President Obamasaid in Cairo: People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based uponthe persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essentialfor religion to thrive, but it's being challenged in many different ways. The Annual Report surveys those many different ways in 198 countries andterritories. Covering both deteriorations and improvements in the status ofgovernmental and societal respect for religious freedom, the Annual Report aims tobe comprehensive and balanced, considering the diversity and dynamism of theworld's religious traditions and socio-political contexts. Despite the variedconditions religious communities encounter around the globe, the principled andpractical reasons for safeguarding their freedom remain the same: religiousfreedom is a fundamental right, a social good, a source of stability, and a key tointernational security. President Obama touched on issues related to each of thesefour reasons in remarks given throughout this past year.First, religious freedom is the birthright of all people, regardless of theirfaith or lack thereof. Enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights andother international instruments, the freedom to profess, practice, and propagateone's faith must be respected by all societies and governments. The United Statestakes this obligation seriously. America will always stand, the President saidin his Ramadan message to Muslims, for the universal rights of all people tospeak their mind, practice their religion, contribute fully to society, and haveconfidence in the rule of law. Second, religious freedom empowers communities of faith to advance the commongood. On balance, freedom tends to channel the convictions and passions of faithinto acts of service and positive engagement in the public square. In the UnitedStates scores of religious groups, from the largest denominations to the smallestlocal congregations, have put their faith into practice and helped to build a morejust and compassionate society. In announcing the establishment of the White HouseOffice of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, President Obama said, Thereis a force for good greater than government. It is an expression of faith, thisyearning to give back, this hungering for a purpose larger than our own, thatreveals itself not simply in places of worship but in senior centers and shelters,schools, and hospitals. Third, religious freedom is not only a human right and social good, it isimperative for national stability. Authoritarian regimes that repress religiousgroups and ideas in the name of stability create the very conditions that subverttheir stated goals. Repression radicalizes. Coercive and arbitrary interference inpeaceful religious practice can harden resentment against the state and lead someto separatism or insurgency. By contrast, freedom of religion and expression, the President remarked to the Turkish Parliament, lead to a strong and vibrantcivil society that only strengthens the state… An enduring commitment to the ruleof law is the only way to achieve the security that comes from justice for allpeople. Fourth, in an age when terrorist groups export their hatred around the world,religious freedom is critical to international security. As the President noted inCairo, when violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people areendangered across an ocean. Governments must ensure that their policies onreligion do not have negative international consequences. Regimes that manipulatereligion or marginalize minority groups exacerbate interreligious tension andthrow fuel on the fire of radical religious ideologies. Environments of robust
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