Religious Repression

November 1, 2013 • Volume 23, Issue 39
Should U.S. support of religious freedom be stronger?
By Michelle Johnson


Refugees from Sudan attend church services (Getty Images/Paula Bronstein)
Refugees from Sudan attend church services in a refugee camp in newly independent South Sudan in July 2012. After the south voted for independence in 2011, following a 22-year civil war, thousands of Sudanese Christians in the largely Muslim north fled south, where the new constitution protects religious freedom. Sudan's imposition of draconian Islamic law, or Sharia, sparked the war. (Getty Images/Paula Bronstein)

Nearly 75 percent of the world's inhabitants — 5.1 billion people — live in countries that restrict religious freedom, a fundamental human right under international law. Draconian antiblasphemy laws, threats of imprisonment, physical attacks and the desecration of holy sites are among the tools used to stifle religious expression. Many foreign policy experts see religious oppression as a serious threat to global stability. Advocates in the United States are pushing policymakers to make religious freedom a higher priority, arguing that promoting it abroad will help defuse tensions and foster peace and democracy. But others say that making religion a focus of foreign policy is a mistake because it is too complex and volatile an issue. Meanwhile, some countries, such as newly independent South Sudan, have taken noteworthy steps to broaden religious rights.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Human Rights
Nov. 01, 2013  Religious Repression
May 17, 2013  Assisted Suicide
Oct. 16, 2012  Human Trafficking and Slavery
Sep. 20, 2011  Saving Indigenous Peoples
Oct. 30, 2009  Human Rights Issues
Jul. 25, 2008  Human Rights in China
Mar. 26, 2004  Human Trafficking and Slavery
Apr. 30, 1999  Women and Human Rights
Nov. 13, 1998  Human Rights
Jul. 19, 1985  Human Rights in the 1980s
May 18, 1979  Human Rights Policy
Apr. 03, 1968  Human Rights Protection
Mar. 21, 1956  Forced Labor and Slavery
Apr. 27, 1949  Forced Labor
Jan. 25, 1945  Bills of Rights
Global Issues
Religion and Politics
Religious Freedom
Religious Movements