US secretary of State Antony Blinken says attacks on people and places of worship in India are rising. Releasing the 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom, Mr Blinken noted that the report offers a thorough, fact-based review of the state of religious freedom in nearly 200 countries and territories around the world.
He said, “For example, in India, the world’s largest democracy and home to a great diversity of faiths, we’ve seen rising attacks on people and places of worship; in Vietnam, where authorities harass members of unregistered religious communities; in Nigeria, where several state governments are using antidefamation and blasphemy laws to punish people for expressing their beliefs.”
US Commission on International Religious Freedom has prepared the report that says India’s religious freedom conditions had “significantly worsened “in 2021.
Blinken said respect for religious freedom is his government’s “vital foreign policy priority.”
“Respect for religious freedom isn’t only one of the deepest held values and a fundamental right. It’s also, from my perspective, a vital foreign policy priority. Here’s why. We know that when the fundamental right of each person to practice their faith or to choose not to observe a faith is respected, people can make their fullest contributions to their community’s successes; entire societies are better off,” he said.
“On the other hand, when governments deny this right, it ignites tension, it sows division, it often leads to instability and conflict,” added Mr Blinken.
“This year’s report includes several countries where we see notable progress, thanks to the work of governments, civil society organizations, and citizens. For example, last year, the Kingdom of Morocco launched an initiative to renovate Jewish heritage sites like synagogues and cemeteries and to include Jewish history in the Moroccan public school curriculum,” Mr Blinken stated.
USCIRF Chief and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain said in India, “some officials are ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship.”
“Governments must speak out and protect the vulnerable and marginalized. Anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, and xenophobia are on the rise in many countries. Democratic backsliding and the rise of nationalism and nativist rhetoric and policies have been used to justify violence towards members of ethnic or religious minority groups and historically marginalized peoples. Social media platforms are used to spread hate speech and to incite violence by vilifying and threatening members of religious minorities,” he concluded.