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Restrictions on Religious Freedom Hit Highest Levels in More Than a Decade

US religious freedom - We the People

Faith leaders recently held a virtual event to advance religious freedom through US foreign policy. Their goal is to secure religious freedom for everyone, everywhere, including right here in America.

Religious Freedom Ambassador Sam Brownback says the concept doesn't work unless it's for everybody, all the time. 

"We look at this religious freedom foundational right that if you can get it right as a nation other human rights will flourish," Brownback said. "If you get it wrong other human rights will diminish."

New research reveals government restrictions on religion hitting the highest level since 2007. The number of countries with high or very high government restrictions peaked in 56 countries in 2018. The Middle East and North Africa have the highest level of restrictions against people of faith. 

"We've never been more institutionalized but we've never seen more persecution," said Chris Seiple, Templeton Religion Trust. "The new Pew reports are out and there has never been more persecution, so we are getting our act together on how this gets institutionalized but obviously we have to go to another level here as a civil society, as a government."

An executive order signed in June focused on making international religious freedom a central printout for US foreign policy. 

In 2018, the White House stepped in to help free pastor Andrew Brunson who was arrested in Turkey, falsely accused of being a CIA agent plotting with Kurdish terrorists to carry out an alleged coup. 

"I tasted persecution at a relatively intense level and I think one of the purposes God had for me in my imprisonment was that I learned perseverance at a deeper level again and again as I was broken and he rebuilt me," Brunson said. 

Faith leaders are now calling on the expected Biden Administration to keep religious freedom as a priority and push back on countries that persecute people of faith. 

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