Commemorating International Religious Freedom Day
Katrina Lantos Swett contributes a post for On Faith’s Guest Voices:
Across the globe, religion and belief continue to matter deeply in the lives of people and their cultures. From worship to prayer, births to funerals, weddings to holy days, almsgiving to thanksgiving, religion is a central source of identity, meaning, and purpose for billions of human beings.
Because religion matters, so does religious freedom. Simply stated, most people strive to practice their beliefs peacefully as they see fit. They seek to think as they please, believe or not believe as their conscience leads, and live out their convictions openly and peacefully. On October 27, the United States celebrated this right by observing International Religious Freedom Day. This celebration marks the day in 1998 that the International Religious Freedom Act was signed. The new law created an international religious freedom office in the U.S. State Department, headed by a new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, on which I serve.
An independent, bipartisan, federal government commission, USCIRF monitors religious freedom worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state, and Congress. Based on our monitoring, we have found that people continue to be denied this universal human right in all too many countries, with violations ranging from onerous rules and regulations to imprisonment, torture, and even murder.