News / Africa

Religious Freedom Report Highlights Displacement, Repression

US: Respecting Religious Freedoms Safeguards Stabilityi
X
Scott Stearns
July 28, 2014 10:30 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says countries that undermine religious freedoms ultimately threaten their own security. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on the annual U.S. report on international religious freedom.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says countries that undermine religious freedoms ultimately threaten their own security.

Secretary Kerry says those who attack religious freedom not only unjustly threaten the people they target but undermine their own stability.

"From South Asia to the Sahel, governments have silenced members of religious groups with oppressive laws, harsh punishments, and brutal tactics that have no place in the 21st century," said Kerry.

This year's report on international religious freedom includes concerns about northern Nigeria where violence between the Islamist-militant Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces have claimed the lives of Muslims and Christians.

"In Nigeria, Boko Haram has killed more than 1,000 people over the last year alone. And that includes Christian and Muslim religious leaders, individuals who were near, near churches and mosques, worshipers and bystanders alike," said Kerry.

In Iraq, Kerry says the world has seen the "savagery and incredible brutality" of the Syrian-based Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

"The wholesale slaughter of Shia Muslims, the forced conversions of Christians in Mosul, the rape and executions and use of women and children as human shields. All of these acts of barbarism underscore the stakes," he said.

Human Rights Watch's Sarah Margon says Iraqi security forces have helped enflame sectarian tensions, making it difficult for Washington to support a government in Baghdad that has little support from Sunnis and Kurds.

"We are watching the political situation very closely to see how it works out. But unless there is a different political dynamic in Iraq I worry very greatly that the security forces aren't going to be defending an Iraq that would be inclusive and open for all Iraqis," said Margon.

In Burma, the religious freedom report decries violence against Muslims that Kerry says "continues to displace families and devastate communities."

"Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been displaced in Burma in the wake of sectarian violence. And tens-of-thousands more are living in squalid camps without adequate medical care," he said.

In Russia, Kerry says Vladimir Putin's government is systematically eroding religious freedoms.

"In Russia, the government has used a succession of ever-more-punitive laws against what they call "extremism" to justify crude measures against people of faith," he said.

Kerry says repressive governments and extremist groups around the world are clear about what they stand against. So he says the United States must be equally clear about what it stands for.

"We are not arrogantly telling people what to believe. We're not telling people how they have to live everyday. We're asking for the universal value of tolerance, of the ability of people to have a respect for their own individuality and their own choices," said Kerry.

Margon says that is a message sometimes unevenly applied by Washington.

"It's part of smart development. It's part of good security measures. And the United States has sent that message sometimes when it's convenient, and other times it's fallen off the radar," she said.

This year's report on religious freedoms adds Turkmenistan to a list of countries of particular concern, where the Obama administration says people are beaten and tortured because of their religious beliefs.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid