The United States Government has issued its annual report deploring attacks on religious freedom around the world, but a former US diplomat says it is doing little to promote religious freedom.
The latest report, from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, says the “escalating attack” on religious freedom constitutes an ongoing crisis equal to that of the world’s economic woes.
The State Department lists eight “countries of particular concern” — Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan — and Clinton said the report “sends a signal to the worst offenders that the world is watching”.
The report says the “Arab Spring” protests raised expectations of greater freedom in some countries, notably Egypt, but subsequent developments show that religious minorities still face grave dangers.
Dr Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, said the report offers a “comprehensive catalogue of violations of religious freedom”, but stops short of addressing them in a concrete and meaningful way.
Dr Farr, who was the first director of the State Department’s international religious freedom office, said Clinton’s language is “very good” but the words do not translate into policies.
He said the policy section of the 331-page report gives “a laundry list of unconnected meetings and ‘dialogues’, or repetitions of senior US officials having ‘raised the issue’ or ‘discussed’ it with host country officials”, but these alone are not enough to be effective.
Dr Farr advocated a “foreign policy strategy that takes the advancement of religious freedom as a serious issue of security, stability and success”.
He said the US should give religious freedom ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook the tools to develop strategies in key countries. “She should be given increased authority and resources. Currently her office and function are isolated and under-funded.”