International Religious Freedom took center stage at the State Department Wednesday as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken released his department's 2020 report on the matter.
Blinken addressed reporters in the department's press briefing room, reminding those in attendance that "religious freedom is a human right."
"In fact, it goes to the heart of what it means to be human – to think freely, to follow our conscience, to change our beliefs if our hearts and minds lead us to do so, to express those beliefs in public and in private," he said. "This freedom is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It's also part of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Our country's commitment to defending freedom of religion and belief goes back centuries. It continues today."
"Religious freedom, like every human right, is universal. All people, everywhere, are entitled to it no matter where they live, what they believe, or what they don't believe. Religious freedom is co-equal with other human rights because human rights are indivisible. Religious freedom is not more or less important than the freedom to speak and assemble, to participate in the political life of one's country, to live free from torture or slavery, or any other human right. Indeed, they're all interdependent," the secretary continued.
"Religious freedom can't be fully realized unless other human rights are respected, and when governments violate their people's right to believe and worship freely, it jeopardizes all the others. And religious freedom is a key element of an open and stable society. Without it, people aren't able to make their fullest contribution to their country's success. And whenever human rights are denied, it ignites tension, it breeds division," Blinken said.
The secretary also noted the Pew Research Center's finding that 56 countries encompassing a significant majority of the world's people have high or severe restrictions on religious freedom.
Some of the worst offenders highlighted in this year's report include Iran, China, Burma, Russia, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia --- which Blinken pointed out is the only country in the world without a Christian church despite more than a million Christians living there.
Penny Nance, president, and CEO of Concerned Women in America appeared on the Wednesday edition of CBN News' Faith Nation to discuss the State Department's report.
Faith Nation is seen weeknights on the CBN News Channel.
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